How Are State Telehealth Policies Associated with Services Offered by Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities?
Evidence from 2019-2022
Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.110959
Posted on RAND.org on September 11, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic led several states to adopt policies permitting the delivery of substance use disorder treatment (SUDT) by telehealth. We assess the impact of state-level telehealth policies in 2020 that specifically permitted audio or audiovisual forms of telehealth offerings among SUDT facilities.
Cross-sectional analysis of secondary data from between 2019 and 2022. Pre-pandemic, federal law permitted states to allow audiovisual telehealth modes for SUDT to a limited extent. 2020 laws permitted states to allow audio-only modes for the first time and strengthened ability to offer audiovisual modes. We compared national SUDT facility self-reported telehealth offerings in 2020 and beyond to 2019, in states that in 2020 had policies permitting audiovisual and audio only, compared to other states.
Among outpatient SUDT facilities (n = 5,227) present in all four years of our data, the proportion offering telehealth increased from 18% (n = 921) in 2019 to 26% in 2020, 60% in 2021, and 79% in 2022. We estimate an audiovisual and audio only policy in 2020 was associated with an increase in telehealth offering rates in 2022 of +16.5 percentage points (pp) (95% CI [+10.4,+22.6]) compared to the rates in states with no such listed policy. There was little evidence of an influence on telehealth offering in 2020 (-2.9 pp, CI [-9.0,+3.2]) and 2021 (+0.6 pp, CI [-5.5,+6.7]).
The enactment of state-level telehealth policies that allow audio and audiovisual modalities may have increased SUDT facilities' likelihood of offering telehealth services two years after enactment.