Telehealth Capability Among Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities in Counties With High Versus Low COVID-19 Social Distancing

Published in: doi: Journal of Addiction Medicine (2020). 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000744

Posted on RAND.org on November 03, 2020

by Jonathan Cantor, Bradley D. Stein, Brendan Saloner

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Objective

To quantify the availability of telehealth services at substance use treatment facilities in the U.S. at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and determine whether telehealth is available at facilities in counties with the greatest amount of social distancing.

Methods

We merged county-level measures of social distancing through April 18, 2020 to detailed administrative data on substance use treatment facilities. We then calculated the number and share of treatment facilities that offered telehealth services by whether residents of the county social distanced or not. Finally, we estimated a logistic regression that predicted the offering of telehealth services using both county- and facility-level characteristics.

Results

Approximately 27% of substance use facilities in the U.S. reported telehealth availability at the outset of the pandemic. Treatment facilities in counties with a greater social distancing were less likely to possess telemedicine capability. Similarly, nonopioid treatment programs that offered buprenorphine or vivitrol in counties with a greater burden of COVID-19 were less likely to offer telemedicine when compared to similar facilities in counties with a lower burden of COVID-19.

Conclusions

Relatively few substance use treatment facilities offered telehealth services at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers and public health officials should do more to support facilities in offering telehealth services.

Research conducted by

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