This is a challenging time for everyone in our country and around the world. Due to the spread of COVID-19, nearly 100,000 Americans have lost their lives so far at the time this post was written, and there is likely still much more tragedy to come. Although stay-at-home orders are ending nationwide, many people are still staying at home in hopes of keeping themselves and others safe.
As a result, many services are not currently available and many people do not have access to some of the support that they so desperately need. One area in which this is move evident is in the realm of addiction recovery support and services.
COVID-19 & Addiction
This is dangerous for so many. The pressures of stress, depression, and isolation all contribute to addiction and may cause some individuals who are already in recovery to relapse. Although the direct effects of COVID-19 on drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are not yet known, it’s easy to speculate the many ways that this pandemic has negatively affected the lives of the people who suffer from addiction use disorders.
Technology, COVID-19, & Addiction
Many support groups and other addiction recovery services have turned to technology to help them in their efforts to reach the vulnerable during this challenging and stressful period in history.
Fortunately, thanks to computers, cell phones, and WiFi, many people have been able to find support through virtual means. Remote support groups are not the same as in-person groups, but they can help a great deal. Many of these types of groups can be found through simple search engine searches, and it’s likely that your regular, existing support group has moved online during these times as well.
Substance abuse counselors, doctors, psychologists, and other addiction recovery support professionals are using technology to help them to provide services and support to people in need right now too. The idea of telemedicine is not new, but its use has increased by leaps and bounds over the past few months thanks to coronavirus and COVID-19.
Read on learn about telemedicine and the ways it is helping people get clean and sober and stay that way even during this crazy time.
What is Telemedicine?
In short, telemedicine is medical care delivered using telecommunications technology. It allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients from a distance. Although this concept has been around for quite some time, it has really begun to grow and improve over the past decade or so.
In the 1950s, a few hospital systems and university medical centers began to try to find ways to share information and images over telephone lines. In one of the first successes, two medical centers in Pennsylvania transmitted radiologic images.
As technology has improved, so have the applications of telemedicine. Some of the best uses of telemedicine have been to connect specialists in one part of the world or country with patients elsewhere. Many rural areas in America or in foreign countries do not have access to specialists in every field. Through the use of telemedicine, diagnoses can be made over great distances, and courses of treatments can be recommended without the doctor ever having to meet with the patient in person.
High-quality internet, video, and information transmission over the past few decades has helped to increase the possibilities for telemedicine and have resulted in more effective results. Thanks to this new and constantly evolving technology, many lives have been improved and saved.
Telemedicine and COVID-19
In the past, telemedicine was mostly used when a patient was too distant from a specific doctor to seek in-person treatment from him or her. However, the appearance and rise of coronavirus and COVID-19 in recent times have encouraged many doctors and patients to turn to the use of telemedicine to safely see even local patients at a distance.
Through telemedicine meetings, doctors are able to see their patients face to face and they can speak with them about their symptoms. Then, the doctors can decide whether or not the patient should come to the doctor’s office for further diagnosis and treatment. In many cases, the doctor can diagnose the patient remotely and can prescribe appropriate medicine and treatment from afar without even having to meet with him or her. If a referral to a specialist is needed, that can be provided in this way as well.
Telemedicine and Addiction Recovery Treatment
When it comes to addiction recovery treatment, many helpful services do not require face-to-face meetings. Whether a doctor wishes to meet with a patient to discuss the continuation of an ongoing buprenorphine treatment or a substance abuse therapist needs to provide mental health support to an individual in need, patients can meet with these medical professionals from a distance online. This helps to keep all parties involved healthy and safe while still ensuring that the patient is getting the services and support that he or she needs.
There are so many different applications for telemedicine, but it seems that it can be more easily applied to addiction recovery services that to almost any other field of medicine. Mental health services can be offered virtually and might be even more effective in this way to some extent. It is sometimes difficult for people who are feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious to travel to a provider even in the best of times, so when the provider can come right into the homes of those in need via technology, even more people can be reached and helped in a productive and successful way. According to several studies completed in 2019, it seems possible that telemedicine may even result in more improved treatment retention and consistency when compared to participants having to travel to a provider for in-person treatment.
Furthermore, digital tools like smartphone applications and text messaging can help to support and bolster substance abuse treatment from a distance, and more and more providers are beginning to incorporate these sorts of things into treatment plans both before and during this pandemic.
Telemedicine Is the Future
Telemedicine is here to stay. Although coronavirus and COVID-19 is terrifying, fortunately, this technology allows addiction recovery professionals to meet with and even see their patients from a distance without having to worry about virus transmission. They can still provide the important recovery services that their clients and patients need and can offer this crucial support while keeping everyone safe and sound.
Although many providers may have not planned on learning the ins and outs of telemedicine suddenly in 2020, the pandemic has certainly moved this technology forward quickly. Although it most professionals would prefer to see their patients in person in their offices, this is a great substitute for now, and it will be interesting to see how many providers and patients continue to meet in this way when solutions to the pandemic have been found.
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