The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that more than 3 out of 4 people (three-quarters) around the world who suffer from substance use disorders (SUD) and mental illness receive little to no treatment.
Extensive evidence-based research has proven that there is an unmet demand for those who need addiction treatment. In other words, there is a large gap between what is needed, and what is available.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the United States, business and schools have been forced to close, resulting in a stay at home order. Therefore, for those who suffer from substance abuse virtual help such as telehealth is more critical than ever.
In these times of fear and uncertainty, while in-person care may not be an option, at Ken Seeley Rehab in Palm Springs, California, help is still readily accessible through our telehealth addiction treatment services.
What is Telehealth?
Thanks to the continuous evolution within the field of telecommunications, in regards to the advances in network and wireless technologies, the healthcare industry has improved dramatically thanks to telehealth.
In other words, over the years, the role of technology has improved the accessibility and coordination of healthcare. For areas of the world where there is a shortage or gap of expert health care, the use of this improved form of communication has allowed medical services and resources to be accessed easier than ever before.
Telehealth allows for high-quality long-distance virtual care, allowing doctors in various specialties to diagnose and provide treatment to patients remotely from the comfort of their own home, without having to travel to the actual clinic or doctor’s office in-person. The aspects of telehealth include the following:
- Video Conferencing
- Text messaging and chat capabilities
- Web-based tools
- Mobile applications
- Telephone-based communication
Components of Telehealth
As mentioned before, telehealth is defined as various forms of technology such as smartphones, texting, video-conferencing, and other web-based tools and applications, used as forms of communication, to provide accessible health care services and resources to help people manage their conditions.
Today, there are various aspects of telehealth that prove why technology is omnipresent. Patient to physician contact along with care, advice, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions are important components of online health care.
Especially for those suffering from addiction, telehealth has become a very important tool and a major source of help today. The major four modalities of telehealth include:
Video Conferencing (Virtual Visits)
The most important component of telehealth is video conferencing, also known as virtual visits. People can video chat with their addiction and mental health specialists live via video audiovisual chat technology such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. This interactive teleconferencing between patient and caregiver allows the visit to still occur but in the comfort of one’s own home.
For those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders, monitoring one’s condition is a crucial part of addiction treatment. Telehealth technology enables specialists to monitor the patient’s progress from their homes.
Addiction is a complex chronic condition that consists of biological, physical, and psychological risk factors, often requiring professional medical intervention. During remote monitoring, often devices are given to patients to collect biometric data in real-time throughout the day to track drug and alcohol use, in addition to other important health factors such as heart rate.
Store-and-Forward Patient Monitoring
Telemedicine is usually conducted in real-time. Store-and-forward patient monitoring also known as an asynchronous communication utilizes the doctor-patient relationship. This process is called asynchronous because it means that the patient and specialist do not have to be online or in the room at the same time during the time of care provided.
During the store-and-forward monitoring process, medical data is collected and sent from the patient to the physician in the forms of images, documents, biosignals, voice recordings, and other important information by using secure online and cloud-based platforms such as email or messengers. The medical data received by the physician is then saved and assessed, and results are then given to the patient on a live visit via video conferencing.
Mobile health also known as mhealth, utilizes mobile phone technology, such as smartphones and tablets, to facilitate communication and education with apps designed to help and support addicted individuals to monitor and manage their conditions and needs to improve their overall health.
At Ken Seeley Rehab, we pride ourselves in utilizing all of these telehealth components, each mode with its best-use scenarios. The ultimate goal and philosophy of care, is always finding a solution that improves patient care and recovery outcomes while delivering operational benefits to facilities.
Why is Telehealth Beneficial?
Telehealth services are most beneficial for individuals who need proper care and are unable to attend treatment in person or those who may be afraid of going to the doctor.
As present times have turned into a time of uncertainty and fear, during this evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal is being quarantined and staying safe at home. This has caused businesses to close, unemployment, and financial hardship.
While healthcare facilities and care are considered an essential business, some people still do not seek treatment due to expenses, and belief that it doesn’t exist.
Especially in rural and remote areas that lack sufficient health care resources and services, including specialty care such as addiction treatment, virtual care such as telehealth has become a critical tool and major source of help. The main benefits of telehealth include:
- Enables healthcare providers to treat patients more efficiently and diagnose more accurately
- Patients can heal and receive care in the comfort of their own home
- Expanding access to healthcare to people living in more rural areas
- Increases the quality of care for patients while lowering costs of treatment
- Access to medical specialists increases for those who may have limited resources
- Increases ability for healthcare providers and facilities to gather medical data easier
Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine
According to the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), telehealth is defined as methods used to enhance the accessibility to high-quality healthcare and the delivery of other support and healthcare resources using various types of telecommunication technology.
Virtual health provides timely care to people, especially in emergent situations. The main concept is the physician-patient relationship via a face-to-face conversation in real-time using various technologies.
Patients suffering from substance abuse can see their healthcare provider and receive an evaluation, analysis, diagnosis, and treatment as they would in an office, but instead, they do so at a distance.
Especially for the economically disadvantaged or medically underserved/vulnerable populations, countless evidence-based research from studies conducted have proven that telehealth is similar to the term telemedicine, but they are also different.
Telehealth is different from telemedicine in terms of a broader scope. It refers to a type of remote health care service that can also entail non-medical services including education, provider training, administrative meetings, etc.
On the other end of the spectrum, while telehealth is similar, telemedicine refers specifically to focusing on remote clinical services and resources. Telehealth can entail both medical and non-medical services. Studies show that telehealth programs that provide virtual care, can effectively cut down costs.
Treating Patients Remotely in California
It is no secret that even today, one of the biggest problems that patients face at the doctor’s office is long wait times. Some people travel long distances to see specific specialists and providers for their services.
Therefore, delays in receiving the necessary care and treatment often result in severe health consequences, physically and mentally, especially for those suffering from chronic conditions such as addiction and mental illness.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual care, unfortunately, has still not been made widely available to other areas of the country. Luckily, the law has made it possible for California to use its efforts to expand telehealth services to people throughout the state, especially during this difficult time.
Telehealth Services Made Possible in California
According to research conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), results showed that 96 percent of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol do not seek treatment for a variety of reasons, including finances, feelings of fear and denial, knowing they need help, but they can’t find the right facility or resources, and lastly, resources for help in their area may be limited.
While these burdens placed on people deter them from receiving the help that they desperately need, California has recently adopted telehealth initiatives to connect patients with physicians in their location, to the care that they need more quickly and conveniently.
At Ken Seeley Rehab, we are now able to provide telehealth services for people in the state of California. In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the telehealth commercial insurance coverage law also known as parity laws.
As a result, this law has made it possible for the Golden State to join other states in welcoming the world of telehealth technology, catalyzing its growth throughout its cities, allowing better and faster access to healthcare services.
Telehealth Commercial Insurance Coverage Law
When you go to the doctor and receive services, the payment that the doctor or medical facility receives afterward for their care is often completely or partially covered by your health insurance or private government payers. This is called healthcare reimbursement. For addiction treatment, this is the case.
In regards to telehealth services, many private payers do cover this type of care, but the law states that private payers are NOT required to reimburse.
However, under the new telehealth commercial insurance coverage law, it is now required that all telehealth services must equally be covered by commercial health insurance plans.
The word parity means equal. Therefore, when Governor Newsom signed and passed this telemedicine parity law, he mandated that telehealth providers must be reimbursed for their remote care and monitoring services. In other words, insurance companies have to pay physicians for their care just as they would for in-person visits, regardless if it is virtual via telecommunication technology.
In California, telemedicine parity laws state, that it is now illegal for private insurance companies to withhold payment from healthcare providers for their virtual patient monitoring services. This is based on a patient’s location, but approximately, 37 states have telehealth parity laws in place.
Connection Between Telehealth and Substance Abuse
As history has shown that there has been a gap between people needing treatment vs them receiving it. In terms of addiction, millions of people suffer from the disease within the United States, but only a small percentage enter treatment.
As time is of the essence with drug and alcohol addiction, on-demand telehealth services can help those struggling with drug and alcohol dependency and addiction. They can recover and maintain sobriety without having to wait and risk further complications, such as relapse and overdose.
Addiction is a serious and complex disease with a cycle that is hard to stop without professional help. In times of crisis such as this, help for those with substance abuse problems is crucial more than ever before.
Patients who are especially struggling with addiction to opioids (prescription painkillers), can now access and connect with providers in desperate times from the comfort of their own homes. This way they don’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts. They also don’t have to deal with the stigma that is often associated with people seeking help for addiction recovery programs (inpatient, outpatient) in person.
Providers can help those cope with their conditions and manage their pain by connecting with other professionals who specialize in addiction recovery. They can better advise their patients on the correct methods of treatment and techniques throughout their recovery.
Most importantly, this interaction can also help dramatically reduce the risk and amount of relapses and overdoses. These often occur as a result of drug and alcohol use, and lack of professional treatment.
At Ken Seeley Rehab, our team of healthcare providers and addiction specialists provide detox and withdrawal guidance, addiction therapy, support, other addiction treatment, and recovery resources.
Telehealth and Mental Illness
Mental illness and substance abuse go hand-in-hand. People who suffer simultaneously from both have what is called dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. A major risk factor of substance use is mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc.
Many patients who need mental health care cannot access it when they need it, or they choose to not seek it for financial reasons or fear of stigma. Just like substance use disorders, treatment for co-occurring disorders is covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
Ken Seeley Rehab is using telehealth service to provide the following behavioral and mental health services:
- Evaluation and diagnosis: Providers observe the patient, give them an assessment, and screening for a more efficient and accurate diagnosis.
- Treatment: Behavioral and mental health programs provide psychotherapy and counseling services, individually or in a group setting. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention plans, coping and life skills, as well as mental health education also is part of the typical treatment regimen for co-occurring disorders.
- Medication management: Telehealth can help people manage their medication via mobile apps, in-home dispensing devices, and counseling.
Ken Seeley Telehealth Program: Here to Help You Recover and Stay Sober
Finding better ways to harness and utilize these health care resources has also allowed for better use of healthcare provider’s time and expertise. High-quality patient-centered care and patient-physician relationships equal successful recovery outcomes.
Our multidisciplinary team of medical professionals and addiction specialists are here to provide you with the help and support you need during your recovery.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a major threat to people especially battling the disease of addiction, we can assure you, that help is available, and we are here with you every step of the way!