There is one treatment for the malady of substance abuse – which has reached a crisis level – that is dramatically underused – in fact, only 1% of Americans in need of help can legally use this technology.
It’s called telemedicine and it allows patients to connect with doctors and medical professionals by computer and video chat – a possible “game changer” in addiction medicine according to Dr. Edwin Chapman who practices in Washington, DC. He says “there are not enough psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors really to keep up with the demand at this point. It’s really going to be a factor in patients getting access.”
His statement is backed up by the Association of American Medical Colleges which stated we can expect to see a shortage of 120,000 physicians by 2030.
Fortunately, Congress is considering relaxing some of the restrictions associated with the Ryan Haight Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act which passed in 2008 allowing certain facilities to qualify as Drug Enforcement Administration-registered clinics so providers could prescribe controlled substances to patients in those facilities.
The changes reflect legislators’ growing realization of how industry practices have changed since the act passed, said Jennifer Breuer, a partner with Drinker Biddle.
“When Ryan Haight was passed, telemedicine was this pie-in-the-sky idea, and there were online pharmacies letting you fill out a questionnaire and get whatever you asked for,” she said.
But telemedicine has matured, and the federal government has cracked down on online pharmacies.
Now, telemedicine visits can sometimes be recorded in electronic health records. The newly-eligible clinics under the draft bill would include community mental health centers and addiction treatment centers.
The pressure is on legislators to recognize legitimate telemedicine prescribing of controlled substances to benefit patients across America.