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Telemedicine-delivered treatment for substance use disorder: A scoping review

The COVID pandemic prompted a significant increase in the utilization of telemedicine (TM) for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. As we transition towards a “new normal” policy, it is crucial to comprehensively understand the evidence of TM in SUD treatment. This scoping review aims to summarize existing evidence regarding TM’s acceptability, quality, effectiveness, access/utilization, and cost in the context of SUD treatment in order to identify knowledge gaps and inform policy decisions regarding TM for SUDs. We searched studies published in 2012-2022 from PubMed, Cochrane Library, Embase, Web of Science, and other sources. Findings were synthesized using thematic analysis. A total of 856 relevant articles were screened, with a final total of 42 articles included in the review. TM in SUD treatment was perceived to be generally beneficial and acceptable. TM was as effective as in-person SUD care in terms of substance use reduction and treatment retention; however, most studies lacked rigorous designs and follow-up durations were brief (≤3 months). Telephone-based TM platforms (vs video) were positively associated with older age, lower education, and no prior overdose. Providers generally consider TM to be affordable for patients, but no relevant studies were available from patient perspectives. TM in SUD treatment is generally perceived to be beneficial and acceptable and as effective as in-person care, although more rigorously designed studies on effectiveness are still lacking. Access and utilization of TM may vary by platform. TM service quality and costs are the least studied and warrant further investigations.

Authors: Pham, Huyen;Lin, Chunqing;Zhu, Yuhui;Clingan, Sarah E;Lin, Lewei Allison;Mooney, Larissa J;Murphy, Sean M;Campbell, Cynthia I;Liu, Yanping;Hser, Yih-Ing

J Telemed Telecare. 2023 Aug 03:1357633X231190945.

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