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How Stable is Telehealth Addiction Recovery?

Your addiction recovery process can be a challenging, lonely experience even in the best of circumstances. However, the past year has thrown additional issues into the mix. The need for social distancing may have exacerbated the sense of isolation, additional stress can impact your coping mechanisms, and addiction treatment clinics have been fighting to meet needs while adjusting to the restrictions of the pandemic.

  • What You'll Learn

All the more reason, then, to examine what the most effective solutions are at this time. Among the most popular tools to prevent relapse right now are telehealth addiction recovery services. These are designed to provide you with the support that you need in order to maintain sobriety during this especially challenging time. However, being a relatively new addition to your recovery toolkit, it’s only understandable that you want to make sure that this can be a stable and effective approach. So, let’s take a closer look.

Accessibility

Telehealth addiction recovery is more than just a method to get through the pandemic. In fact, one of its benefits is that it is accessible to most people; opening this approach to treatment to a wider demographic. As a patient, you don’t have to travel long distances in order to get the treatment that you need, when you need it. It also tends to be easier to work these appointments around home and family life.

However, when considering its stability, you should take into some key areas of accessibility, including:

  • Education – Telehealth addiction recovery remains accessible because patients can use technology most people have in their homes. Computers, smartphones, and tablet devices are all gateways to this method. However, potential issues arise around whether patients and medical or counseling staff have the knowledge to use these telehealth tools effectively. This is a digital age, but not everyone is confident with the equipment. Thankfully, many providers are guiding patients through how telehealth works — the process of accessing portals, how to set up and attend appointments, even utilizing remote monitoring equipment. Similarly, medical staff and counselors are undertaking additional training to understand how the technology works, and even methods to make patients feel comfortable during virtual appointments.
  • Finances – As with so many other medical services in the U.S., the stability of accessible telehealth addiction recovery services is certainly dependent on how patients can pay for it. Rehab services are generally covered under most insurance plans, and COVID-19 saw more insurers approving telehealth use. However, the demand for these services during the pandemic has also seen many health insurance providers starting to roll back their coverage of telehealth for cost reasons. As a result, it remains to be seen whether telehealth can be financially accessible in the long term.

Security

Addiction recovery is a deeply personal issue. While you’ll find that a lot of work is done during counseling to tackle the guilt and shame that come along with your illness, it is only natural that you want the details of your sessions to be kept private unless you choose to share them. As such, when considering if telehealth is a stable addition to addiction recovery methods, it’s important to review the strength of its security.

In some ways, telehealth is more secure than in-person sessions. There aren’t physical files that can be accidentally left lying around by staff, names aren’t being called out in waiting rooms, and so on. From the therapist or medical professional’s side, all files are kept online and the session will take place in a closed room. As such, security in this area is generally about making safe choices for yourself. You need to have access to a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed and that you know details you talk about won’t be overheard. The fact that the power for this confidentiality is entirely in your hands can make the method not just stable but also preferable to in-person treatment.

However, it’s also vital to understand that cybercrime is an element of our online world. As such, sharing your confidential details, medical files, and even financial information online potentially makes it vulnerable to bad actors. This can be mitigated by making certain the addiction recovery service is using Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant telehealth systems. This act requires a high level of encryption in platforms, monitoring of systems to prevent breaches and detect threats, and assurance that data can only be stored using approved means. If you’re uncertain, speak to your addiction services provider about whether their telehealth platform meets HIPAA standards.

Relationships

Among the most important concerns when undertaking addiction recovery is the relationships you build with your providers. You need to be able to trust them, to feel comfortable opening up to them, and allow yourself to be vulnerable in their presence. This isn’t easy at the best of times, and as such when you consider whether telehealth addiction recovery can be stable, it’s important to look into its ability to support this kind of relationship.

This is an issue that is likely to be different depending on the patients and providers involved. However, it’s worth noting that many telehealth providers are committed to getting the most out of the platform both for their own interests and those of the patient. Aside from checking their technology and connections to make sure that there will be no glitches or interruptions on their end, they also put time into having a dedicated appointment space that replicates the sense of being in that safe, professional counseling space.

There also tends to be no less emphasis on professionals putting time into getting to know you as a human being in need of care, either. Indeed, many therapists have found that conversations flow more freely because those in recovery are able to talk in an environment that they feel most comfortable and safe in. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of telehealth as far as the relationship goes, is that providers can also be available at short notice, and early enough at your time of crisis to help you avoid relapse.

Conclusion

Adoption of telehealth during addiction recovery has risen during COVID-19 and may well become a more popular feature of services. There are still issues to address — ensuring security and insurance network adoption among them. However, the more patients and professionals explore this approach, the clearer it becomes that it can be a stable, empowering tool in your recovery process.

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BEAU PETERS

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Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he has learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.