Every patient should have access to an in-person doctor at all times in an ideal system, and an in-person doctor-patient connection is preferred to talking with a specialist through video. However, the truth is that the majority of the country lacks access to MAT, resulting in thousands of deaths prematurely.
The DEA has announced that, in response to the Covid-19 crisis in early 2020, practitioners can now prescribe buprenorphine to patients via telemedicine without first conducting an in-person evaluation. This implies that if a doctor determines that a patient is a good candidate for buprenorphine following a video or phone consultation, he or she can start prescribing the medicine to that patient.
This is a big relief for folks suffering from opioid addiction who have been looking for a private and convenient option to get help.
In the United States, the treatment gap continues to be a barrier to tackling opioid use disorder (OUD). In 2018, an estimated 2 million Americans were diagnosed with OUD, but only about 26% received treatment.
Despite evidence to the contrary and guidelines from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some patients and policymakers believe that inpatient treatment for OUD is the best option (SAMHSA). As of 2017, 60% of residential facilities in the United States did not offer any FDA-approved medicine to treat OUD, the gold standard treatment for this illness.
Outpatient treatment in the community, as illustrated in a recent Pew video, provides various benefits and a suitable degree of care for many people, particularly those with a less severe OUD according to diagnostic criteria. Outpatient treatment, as illustrated by David Zee, an outpatient recovery advocate, allows people to stay in their communities, maintain employment and/or education, and be close to their support networks, such as family and friends. Outpatient treatment is also less expensive than inpatient treatment.
The federal government has eased restrictions for OUD treatment in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing two-week or longer take-home methadone doses, initial buprenorphine consultations via phone or videoconference, and the use of telehealth for counseling, making outpatient care more accessible than ever before. These accommodations may also make it easier for patients to begin or continue treatment while exercising physical distance, which is one of the CDC's top recommendations for preventing the transmission of coronavirus.