When access to buprenorphine treatment became available to Medicaid beneficiaries in response to the COVID-19 crisis, patients who obtained such treatment via telehealth were more likely to remain under treatment for their disorder than those who received similar care through physician offices.

This new finding, reported in the JAMA Network, suggests that prescribing buprenorphine treatment through telehealth may be beneficial to patients and should remain an option for patients and providers after the COVID-19-inspired policy, extended after the formal end of the public health emergency, expires at the end of 2024, as currently scheduled.

While the study found that patients were more likely to remain in treatment when they began their buprenorphine treatment through telehealth, obtaining the treatment in this manner did not reduce their odds of a non-fatal overdose.

The study’s conclusion:

In this cohort study of Medicaid enrollees receiving buprenorphine for OUD, telemedicine buprenorphine initiation was associated with retention in treatment earpandemic. These findings add to the literature demonstrating positive outcomes associated with the use of telemedicine for treatment of OUD [opioid use disorder].

These findings could have special implications for community safety-net hospitals, which serve more Medicaid patients than the typical American hospital.

Learn more about the study, how it was conducted, its findings, and its implications for continued use in treating patients with opioid use disorder from the JAMA Network report “Telemedicine Buprenorphine Initiation and Retention in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Medicaid Enrollees.”