Adoption of Telemedicine Services by Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities in the U.S.

Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 117 (October 2020). doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108060

Posted on RAND.org on July 28, 2020

by Lori Uscher-Pines, Jonathan Cantor, Haiden A. Huskamp, Ateev Mehrotra, Alisa B. Busch, Michael L. Barnett

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Objective

To describe trends in licensed substance use treatment facilities' adoption of telemedicine and how adoption varies across local factors, including county-level drug overdose rates, urbanicity measures, and state policy laws.

Methods

We analyzed data (2016–2019) from the National Directory of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Facilities. Our main outcome was telemedicine use by a treatment facility. We also captured independent variables from other datasets, including estimated county-level drug poisoning deaths and state-level telemedicine policies. We estimated a multivariable logistic regression model to determine which facility characteristics were associated with offering telemedicine.

Results

From 2016 to 2019, an average of 12,334 treatment facilities were included. During this period, the unadjusted proportion of facilities offering telemedicine grew from 13.5% to 17.4% (p < 0.001). In adjusted models, rural location; offering multiple treatment settings; offering pharmacotherapy; and serving both adult and pediatric patients were associated with greater telemedicine adoption (p < 0.05 for all comparisons).

Discussion

Use of telemedicine is increasing steadily among substance use disorder (SUD) treatment facilities; however, uptake is uneven and relatively low. As such, telemedicine may be an underutilized tool to expand access to care for patients with SUDs.

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