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Is Telemedicine Really Perfect For Addiction Treatment And Mental Health?

Posted on May 3, 2016 by Jim Peake

Telemedicine Perfect For Addiction Treatment & Mental Health

Telemedicine – Group Counseling, Online

Telehealth (or any other name you might want to call it, such as eTherapy) is coming and it is going to be big!  Telemedicine in addiction treatment therapy has just scratched the surface.  Think about this for a second – much of addiction treatment is about mental health counseling and therapy provided in individualized sessions or in group sessions.  In the case of addiction treatment most of the services are either in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient) office or in a residential inpatient setting.

With the advent of the Internet you can connect with a potential date or connect with a group of people as in Facebook, Google Groups or Yahoo Groups.  Once the patient has left their outpatient or residential inpatient treatment setting, they are pretty much “on their own” and left to their own devices and old habits of hanging around the same old people, places and things.  The problem with this whole platform of “stabilizing the patient” in an either IOP or residential inpatient treatment the relapse rates are extremely high.  We all know that if a patient commits to an inpatient rehab they are highly likely going to be clean and sober during their stay, hence REHAB WORKS in this type of setting.

Virtual Relapse Prevention

Once the addict/patient “graduates” from rehab they basically check out of the rehab system.  The insurance companies are tired of paying for “relapsers” to come back in and do another 30-day inpatient addiction treatment tour or 90 days in an IOP.  So the potential solution is for the rehab to engage the addict/patient in an ongoing basis via telemedicine.  eTherapy can be treatment by telephone, email, text message or by going to an online platform via PC or smart phone.

Why would telehealth take off in addiction treatment for addicts struggling with addiction and relapse?  2 Reasons:

  • Potential for better outcomes at lower costs to insurance companies = long term sobriety
  • Insurance companies reimburse providers for telemedicine

As of 2015 insurance companies have been investing in technologies to bring the patient closer to the medical doctors.   Once eTherapy technology companies are able to get the insurance companies to reimburse for their services they will be able to roll out to all of the addiction treatment companies.  If you search for “telemedicine growth” on Google you will see scores of articles claiming that telemedicine is the next big thing and that there is going to be a surge of $5 – $25 Billion in revenue generated be telemedicine.

HIPAA Compliance Is Still A Must

The biggest pitfalls of telemedicine for the addiction treatment providers is twofold:

  • Having enough staff trained and able to provide services
  • Being HIPAA compliant

The training of staff is something that all businesses need to do.  It can become more of a burden in a space where there are not a lot of people who are actually doing it and doing it well.  It would be best if the addiction treatment center used a third party to get trained in delivering of telemedicine services.

Being HIPAA compliant will require 3rd party support as well. It makes no sense for a drug rehab to invest in a HIPAA compliant platform for telemedicine when there are already players offering it on a SaaS basis.

Writing a business model so that the drug rehab can sell telemedicine services will also require experience and flexibility.  Flexibility because things and technology will change.  Competition will heat up in the space and require different service offerings at different prices.

If you want assistance with a new telemedicine platform please reach out and give our experts a call.


Jim Peake

Jim Peake

Jim is an Internet Oldtimer, literally, and he was making a living online before Yahoo and Google were incorporated and even before Al Gore “invented” the Internet. Jim was the catalyst for putting the internet on the front page of every newspaper around the world in one day when he sold the website design and development to IBM for the Kasparov vs. IBM’s Deep Blue chess tournament in 1996. Jim has been in the direct response and advertising industry (printing) since the early 1980’s. Jim’s primary focus is the healthcare and addiction treatment field where he is a management consultant as well as an analytics and digital marketing consultant. - Learn more about Jim Peake, President

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