Workit health study demonstrates high retention in rural patients receiving telemedicine for opioid use disorder

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Workit Labs, the research arm of Workit Health, the nation’s leading provider of virtual substance use disorder treatment, is pleased to announce the publication of a groundbreaking study in the peer-reviewed journal Telemedicine and E-Health.

This study represents the largest sample to date of American patients living in rural areas and receiving telemedicine for opioid use disorder. The findings demonstrate that telemedicine is an effective solution for rural populations living with opioid use disorder, addressing the challenges of accessibility and retention in treatment.

The peer-reviewed study, titled “Retention in Telehealth Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Among Rural Populations: A Retrospective Cohort Study,” underscores the success of telemedicine in delivering treatment for opioid use disorder to individuals residing in rural
communities. Lead author Marlene Lira, MPH, highlights the significance of the findings, stating, “Our study provides compelling evidence that telemedicine-delivered treatment for opioid use disorder is remarkably effective in retaining patients in rural areas, revolutionizing addiction treatment across the country. As the DEA considers the necessity of in-person visits for buprenorphine prescriptions, our findings highlight the immense value and convenience of telemedicine in providing accessible evidence-based care without in-person visits.”

The study encompassed a cohort of over 1,800 rural patients from 14 states across the United States, providing a broad view of the impact of telemedicine on opioid use disorder treatment outcomes. Patients had an average age of 37 years and nearly two-thirds were insured by Medicaid. The findings revealed exceptional retention rates among patients engaged in telemedicine-delivered treatment, surpassing or aligning with retention rates reported in traditional in-person settings. Notably, over half of the patients remained in care at the six-month mark, an improvement from previous studies utilizing claims and discharge data for in-person treatment, which reported retention rates ranging from 35% to 41%.

The study also shed light on the high adherence to buprenorphine treatment within the telemedicine-delivered model. An impressive 90% of retained patients completed urine drug screens at each time point, and among those who participated, an overwhelming 99% displayed positive results for buprenorphine. These findings underscore the robust adherence to buprenorphine treatment among patients receiving telemedicine-delivered care, alleviating concerns regarding diversion and reinforcing the efficacy and integrity of the treatment approach.

The results of this study not only demonstrate the effectiveness of telemedicine in retaining patients and improving treatment outcomes in rural areas but also highlight the positive impact of telemedicine on buprenorphine adherence, mitigating potential concerns surrounding diversion.

By embracing telemedicine as a powerful tool in delivering evidence-based care, Workit Health continues to pioneer innovative solutions that ensure equitable access to comprehensive addiction treatment, benefiting individuals and communities nationwide.

Dr. Justin Coffey, Chief Medical Officer of Workit Health and senior author of the study, emphasizes the potential of telemedicine in transforming addiction treatment for rural communities, stating, “The burden of drug use and overdose is tragically heavy in rural communities. Safe and effective treatment for opioid use disorder exists, but accessing that treatment is unacceptably difficult. Our findings demonstrate how Workit’s ‘patients as designers’ approach can result in dramatic and sustained reductions in harm from opioids, even in some of the hardest hit areas of rural America.”

Workit Health’s telemedicine-delivered treatment platform combines evidence-based practices with convenient, virtual care, enabling patients to access comprehensive addiction treatment from the comfort of their homes. The study’s findings support the growing body of research that demonstrates the efficacy of telemedicine in expanding treatment access and improving patient outcomes.