Cover: How Are State Telehealth Policies Associated with Services Offered by Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities?

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 Sep 11, 2023

by Denis Agniel, Jonathan H. Cantor, Olivia Golan, Hao Yu, Barbara Andraka-Christou, Kosali Ilayperuma Simon, Bradley D. Stein, Erin Audrey Taylor

Background

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.

Procedure

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.

Main Findings

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]).

Conclusions

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.

Research conducted by

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