ATA Conference Opioid Panel: Three Perspectives, One Goal
July 29, 2020 at 6:00 AM
I had the privilege of joining Dr. Sarah Wakeman of Massachusetts General Hospital, and Stephanie Papes, CEO of Boulder Care, at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) June 2020 conference to investigate the latest trends around virtual and telemedicine-enabled care for patients with substance use disorder and opioid addiction. Here’s what I learned.
- Innovators are only hurting themselves if they treat Substance Use Disorder (SUD) as its own special part of healthcare.
Whether it’s medical cost, patient experience, or treatment of comorbidities, the process and impacts of SUD are usually isolated and treated as their own problems. While this may be a well-intentioned attempt to cordon off a bite-sized problem, it winds up shooting everyone in the foot: patients experience fragmented care, inter-provider communication suffers, and worst of all, the view that SUD is its own special world is perpetuated, heaping social stigma and clinical confusion onto an already hairy problem.
- Regulations, from medical access to patient communication, are woefully behind the times.
Dr. Wakeman, Stephanie, and I share similar sentiments when it comes to 42 CFR part 2, and in short, it’s time that legislators assess the minor costs and dramatic benefits that would accompany a pragmatic lightening of the regulatory load when it comes to connecting patients with the technologies and virtual non-clinical support that can help them. Right now, it is simpler to share the personal information of someone with SUD with a collections agency than with a HIPAA-compliant technology company like CareSignal.
And I have the utmost respect for the work that Boulder Care is doing to combine medication-assisted treatment with telehealth; the restrictions from geographic provider licensing to specific medication access are incredibly heavy, and it takes world-class tenacity to make inroads while overcoming so many barriers simultaneously.
- Access, and accessibility, are king.
Integrative care within primary care locations. Convenient, virtual communication, such as free SMS or phone calls. Low-cost, health literacy-agnostic, universally available programs.
Those are the hallmarks of innovations that are delivering real outcomes, and real progress, for patients and providers in the SUD arena today. The best solution, technology-based or otherwise, is only as good as it is scalable; one major silver lining of our panel discussion is that the opportunity to deploy virtual behavioral health solutions at-scale has never been bigger. As COVID-19 forces payers and providers alike to reassess their revenue streams and approaches within risk-based contracts for challenging populations, I’m excited to stand alongside so many innovators. And I’m deeply proud that the Deviceless Remote Patient Monitoring solution that CareSignal already provides to dozens of leading organizations and tens of thousands of patients each day is helping those who have the most to gain.
Read the NEJM Catalyst publication to see how CareSignal (formerly Epharmix) helped a behavioral health provider pilot cost-effective outreach to patients with Opioid SUD that checks up on their recovery, triages needs, and facilitates communication. https://catalyst.nejm.org/doi/abs/10.1056/CAT.18.0205