About Ophelia

How telehealth is advancing OUD treatment in America

Discover the impact of telehealth on opioid addiction treatment with benefits like better access to experts and improved patient retention.

Ophelia team
Telehealth and OUD treatment
Icon of shield with check mark inside
Fact checked by
Arthur Robin Williams, MD

In recent years, telehealth services have expanded dramatically and become a crucial part of medical care today. Telehealth usage increased a whopping 38 times compared to the pre-pandemic baseline, going beyond COVID-19-related care to other areas of medicine. One area in which telehealth services have proved particularly impactful? Treating drug misuse and addiction, specifically treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD).

So, how is the rise of telehealth affecting the field of substance abuse treatment? From ensuring more people have access to addiction experts to achieving higher patient-retention rates than in-person programs, telehealth is changing addiction treatment for the better. 

Benefits of telehealth services in opioid addiction treatment

The use of telemedicine in substance abuse treatment offers significant advantages and advancements over other approaches. These are the key benefits.

Better access to experts in addiction care

Many people dealing with OUD struggle to find nearby medical professionals with specialized expertise in addiction medicine. Fewer than 2,000 physicians are certified in addiction medicine compared to over 20 million Americans with a substance use disorder. Without local options, these patients are forced to either seek addiction care further afield or forgo care entirely. Either way, the lack of addiction experts in many areas across the country serves as a severe obstacle to proper addiction care. 

With telehealth, patients don’t have to worry about whether there’s an addiction care expert in their local area. They can connect with expert clinicians throughout the state, saving them the hassle of travel time or being referred to an out-of-state provider their insurance doesn’t cover. This improved accessibility is a key reason why some patients switch to telehealth substance abuse treatment

Greater patient retention compared to in-person care

OUD treatment is not a one-and-done thing. To successfully address opioid use disorder, patients need ongoing treatment. That’s why patient retention is a crucial indicator when evaluating different methods of OUD treatment. Higher retention rates indicate that a higher percentage of patients are sticking with their treatment plans, giving them a much better chance of positive outcomes. 

Compared to in-person care, telehealth opioid treatment boasts higher retention patient rates. Patients who use telehealth services for OUD treatment are more likely to continue getting their medications, according to one study of over 175,000 patients.

Ophelia telehealtha and medication for opioid addiction treatment retention statistics
Ophelia patient engagement and retention

Advancing treatment for fentanyl-related cases

Drug overdose deaths have risen dramatically over the last decade, and fentanyl is a primary contributor to that growth. Deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids make up the majority of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., which underscores the need for better addiction treatment. Telehealth offers a solution for patients using fentanyl specifically. Recent research shows that patients using fentanyl who undergo telehealth buprenorphine-naloxone inductions to treat OUD see positive results. 

“Up until now, there has been relatively little information in the medical literature on the safety and feasibility of telehealth-guided home inductions for fentanyl-using individuals,” says Dr. Arthur Robin Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Ophelia. “This research proves the long-term benefits of telehealth-guided home inductions are just as feasible and as safe as office-based inductions."

Expanding access to patients in vulnerable communities

Addiction affects people across ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses. Treatment for addiction or drug misuse must, therefore, be accessible to everyone, not just certain groups. Telehealth services make this broad accessibility of treatment possible, especially in rural and underserved areas. In recent years, patients with Medicare benefits have been allowed to receive OUD treatment via telehealth in addition to patients with other forms of insurance. In some states, Medicaid recipients can also access this form of care through providers like Ophelia. Even those without insurance or who prefer to have a private pay option can receive telehealth OUD care from some providers.  

Contrary to the popular myth about telehealth services, online healthcare is not just for young people. Medical providers design their telehealth services to be inclusive to older people, including those who may struggle with digital technology. Access to this advanced care is not restricted based on one’s age. 

Enhancing patient engagement

Patient engagement throughout the treatment process is central to ensuring the success of those treatment plans. Telehealth services keep patients engaged by providing easier access to their care teams and making treatment more convenient than ever. With online treatment, patients can look over their records, track their progress, and access a variety of resources to help them. Telehealth providers are always looking for and discovering innovations that will keep patients even more engaged throughout the treatment process.  

Telehealth OUD treatment in action

There are many ways for providers to deliver telehealth OUD treatment services. The exact process will depend on the medical provider and the patient themselves. Some patients may communicate with their care team over the phone, for example, while others primarily use video calls over the Internet so they can speak face-to-face. 

Ophelia, a leader in telehealth OUD treatment, favors parallel supportive and clinical care teams and at-home guided induction processes. Patients receive support from their designated care teams while managing their own progress from the comfort of their own homes. This private, tailored approach works for many people dealing with opioid use disorder, particularly considering the many advantages telehealth care offers over in-person services. Find out if you’re eligible for this treatment by setting up a quick welcome call.


Treatment that works is right at your fingertips.

Get started