History of Telehealth and Telemedicine
Telehealth is a general term that refers to both clinical and non-clinical applications of technology, like scheduling appointments online. Telemedicine refers specifically to clinical uses of long distance technology, like diagnosing a patient over the phone. The early days of telephones and radio began the idea that this new technology could help people receive medical advice and counsel. Doctors could communicate with remote patients over the phone or ships at sea through their radio. As hubs for medical treatment in remote areas, hospital use Telemedicine regularly. One of the first uses of Telemedicine in hospitals started when psychiatric wards set up camera systems to allow out of state psychiatric professionals to observe patient behavior.
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Video and the Internet
Audio based technology like radio and telephones expanded the degree to which doctors could assist others, but not to the point we see today. The advent of shareable video widened the door, and the introduction of the internet provided a platform where people could contact care providers instantly. Both video and audio can be streamed through the internet allowing professionals to access people they otherwise couldn’t reach.
Mental health and Telehealth harmonize well, allowing counselors to hold sessions virtually and telephonically rather than in person. Some addiction rehab facilities are leveraging behavioral Telehealth in the treatment of substance use disorders. Where in person treatment may not be accessible to some people because of disabilities, limited travel capability, and childcare issues, online or phone options give them an opportunity to get help while maintaining vital life activities like work or family care.
Seemingly minute services like text message appointment reminders reduce dropout rates in rehab programs. Clinicians can use these features, not only to perform mundane yet important tasks like appointment reminders, but to further interact with their clients. Reaching out to support someone in their recovery efforts helps keep them accountable and on track, where they otherwise may return to maladaptive behaviors that could lead to a return to substance use .
The two most common uses of Telehealth in addiction medicine include:
- Text message contact
- Computer Screenings
While less flashy than video conferencing, these implementations of technology in the rehab process ultimately increase the amount of face-to-face time possible between clients and counselors. Rather than someone missing or avoiding a therapy appointment, they receive a text that motivates them to attend. Instead of counselors spending time collecting demographic data and other information, patients can fill out computer screening applications beforehand.
Addiction Telehealth for smoking cessation is both effective and popular. The ubiquity of cigarettes compared to illegal drugs can tempt long-time smokers back into their nicotine addiction when living out their day to day lives. Having an online resource can keep people with an addiction to nicotine cigarette free, accountable, and working with care professionals in order to succeed in their recovery journey.
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With just 30 days at a rehab center, you can get clean and sober, start therapy, join a support group, and learn ways to manage your cravings.
The need for virtual addiction therapy options is more apparent during this pandemic than ever before. Substance use disorders and dependencies thrive on the kind of loneliness, isolation, lack of connection and accountability that people experience during quarantine. When in recovery, isolation and nebulous scheduling can interrupt the plans put into place to stop addictive tendencies. Many facilities are still offering in person inpatient rehab; however, self-help meetings have been seriously interrupted by the mandates to self-isolate and physically and social distance.
Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have well supported virtual meeting opportunities all over the world. For people post-treatment and entering long-term recovery, these types of resources are vital in their recovery efforts.
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While Telehealth and Telemedicine services help bridge some gaps, they’re not perfect. Some useful functionalities require specific software to ensure patient confidentiality over virtual platforms and hardware that some rehabs don’t have access to. Also, not everyone has regular and reliable access to a computer or phone, especially if they’re in a dire situation regarding addiction. Making sure both the healthcare provider and recipient are able to access Telehealth services is crucial in a successful interaction.
If you’re here researching options in order to help your or a lovd one, reach out to treatment providers for further information and assistance. Waiting only worsens addictions. Don’t let your health or the health of someone you love deteriorate further.