Using Telehealth to Meet the Challenges of the Opioid Epidemic

Stevland Sonnier, IMPAQ
Anita Makkenchery, IMPAQ
Sinead Maharrey, AIR
Karin Johnson, IMPAQ

Across the United States, overdose death rates are surging. More information is needed to inform the delivery of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and other therapeutic approaches using telehealth. Evidence for the effectiveness of delivery MOUD via telehealth has been promising, yet center on a few case studies and regional efforts.

Necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth for MOUD and overall treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) has dramatically accelerated. With the pandemic continuing to affect in-person access to care, availability of the remote treatment of OUD has become a matter of life and death for over 2.5 million Americans with OUD. The need to remove barriers to the equitable delivery of evidence-based care for treating OUD in a telehealth setting has never been more urgent.

Health policy researchers from AIR and IMPAQ are tracking and evaluating how policymakers, providers, and others in the health care field are responding to the opioid epidemic during the COVID-19 pandemic. This brief covers:

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting treatment approaches for opioid use disorder;
  • Why federal and state governments are promoting the use of telehealth for OUD treatment; and
  • What policymakers, providers, and other stakeholders can do to ensure telehealth treatment for OUD is equitable and effective.

Infographic: Recommendations for Policymakers and Providers for delivery of medicine for opioid use disorders via telehealth
Link to larger version (PDF).