Telemedicine has been on the radar for a while as an underused tool to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States. In the latest development in Washington, after holding seven hearings, the Senate Health Commission in April unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States.

Senate Bill 2680, The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, now moves to the Senate floor for approval. A date for final Senate passage is not known. Though the bill attacks the opioid problem on many fronts via input from 38 senators, a significant element of the bill would change current U.S. law governing telemedicine. That element restricts which providers, qualified to prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of substance abuse, can use telemedicine, expanding that group to include community mental health and addiction treatment centers.

Right now, only 10 percent of 21 million U.S. residents that need substance abuse treatment are going to receive it in 2018, according to Jessica Hulsey-Nickel, founder and president of the Addiction Policy Forum, who testified before the Senate committee in April.

Can you imagine if 10 percent of cancer patients received treatment?” Nichol said to the committee. “And in particular for rural communities, telemedicine can be a game-changer on getting the treatment components that you need for a long-term treatment and recovery plan.”

The bipartisan nature of this effort, and support by the President, means a big new role for telemedicine to solve this pressing national crisis.

Just today, another big development on the opioid issue made headlines. Walmart announced it would restrict opioid dispensing at its pharmacies to no more than a 7-day supply.

Even today, using a virtual care platform can help you keep track of your patients’ care plans and prescribe – all done remotely. Consider joining the HealthTap Virtual Care movement to connect easily with your patients, click below.

 

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Scott Mace

Scott Mace writes about healthcare, technology and related topics such as computer security, digital identity, and workflow automation. His journalism career spans more than 30 years, writing for such media as InfoWorld, Personal Computing, Byte, Boardwatch, IT Conversations, NurseWeek, HealthLeaders, and Identiverse. In 2015, he was a recipient of a Jessie H. Neal Award, an annual national journalism competition in business reporting, for best technical content in the January/February 2014 HealthLeaders cover story, "The ROI of EHR." For six years, he also served on the international board of directors for CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium.

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