When considering your treatment possibilities, it is important to keep your options open and find the treatment type that is going to best fit yourself or a loved one. You may come to find that many travel options seem to be out of the way for you, or there is simply no feasible way for you to find accessible treatment. Individual’s who are facing this type of circumstance may benefit from Telehealth Services.

What is Telemedicine?

Understanding the difference between telehealth and telemedicine can go a long way in helping you decide which type of care you need. Telemedicine, is a broad term for a certain portion of telehealth services. Telemedicine specifically includes the care that a physician gives from a distance, telemedicine can include (according to the Center for Connected Health Policy):

  • Video Chat Apps
    • Often, this type of telemedicine is used to treat non-life-threatening illnesses. When dealing with addiction, video conferencing may be used for therapy purposes.
  • Asynchronous Video
    • Instead of communicating live through a video conferencing software, this form of telemedicine involves the individual or physician first recording themselves, and sending their recordings to a distant patient or physician. This option works best for those in rural areas in need of long-distance care.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
    • Sometimes known as Remote Patient Management, this care is intended to collect information about the patient, both personal and medical. Once the information is collected it is sent electronically to a health care provider. RPM is useful in helping a patient maintain sobriety after leaving treatment. RPM can track vitals and is useful in helping seniors and individuals with disabilities live more fruitful lives.
  • Mobile Health
    • Mobile health refers to the general software applications and technologies that are used to assist in telemedicine procedures. This can refer to smartphones, tablets, etc., and the software applications that are available to help monitor health.

Types of Telehealth Services

Telehealth, on the other hand is a broad term for numerous types of care one may receive from a distance. Telehealth has been around since the 1950’s. The services began by landline and physicians were able to give care to a multitude of patients in a variety of locations. Today, telehealth services can be provided through smartphones, tablets, and computers. Care that can be provided through Telehealth services can include (although not limited to):

  • Dentistry
  • Counseling
  • Physical and Occupational Therapy
  • Chronic Disease Monitoring and Management

Keep in mind that addiction is a chronic disease itself. Addiction should receive the same type of care as any other chronic disease, as well as the same type of management.

Are Telehealth Services for You?

Due to the current, and perhaps permanent, changes to the healthcare industry from the 2020 COVID-19 health pandemic, telehealth is becoming an essential facet of healthcare. Individuals with compromised immune systems, and particularly those with weakened lung function, will want to consider telehealth services. Both hospitals and treatment centers are likely to be homing individuals that have been exposed to the virus. Certain substance addictions can weaken the immune system. It is important to take this into account when considering treatment options and deciding whether or not you or a loved one should spend time in a facility, or if they should consider telehealth services. Keep in mind certain addiction treatments will need to be facilitated at a treatment center regardless.

More so, you will want to keep in mind that while the individual doesn’t necessarily need to be tech-savvy there is a learning curve when it comes to understanding some of the technologies that are necessary for telehealth services. If an individual does not feel capable of understanding the required technologies, having individual’s around them that can teach or assist them in understanding the technologies can make the process easier.  

Can Medicare or Medicaid Cover Telehealth Services?

You may come to find that telehealth services fit your needs after all. You then may be curious whether or not you can receive the necessary coverage to take care of Telehealth services. An individual with Medicare or Medicaid will want to know a few things. In the case of Medicare, telehealth can receive coverage when the treatment is necessary. However, as of March 2020, with the demand for telehealth services going up, the Waiver 1135 went through and allows telehealth services to be provided under a variety of conditions. Under Waiver 1135 Medicare will cover office, hospital, and other locations via telehealth. Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, and Clinical Psychologists are all able to provide services under this waiver through telehealth services with potentially lower costs.

 In the case of Medicaid, on the other hand, only programs that meet certain specifications will be covered. In order for the programs to receive coverage, the Telehealth programs must meet the federal standards of efficiency, economy, and quality of care. Typically, the amount that Telehealth services can receive coverage under Medicaid varies from state to state. The states have the discretion to determine the coverage amount because Telehealth care is often a cost effective option. States are encouraged to be flexible with how they reimburse the services. As a result, states may provide reimbursement for technical support, transmission charges, and additional equipment charges.  Ultimately, both will cover Telehealth care when circumstances are appropriate, and the care is efficient and legitimate.

Will My Insurance Plan Cover Telehealth Treatment?

Your insurance plan may cover Telehealth services. However, coverage will depend on who your provider is, your specific policy, and what tier your coverage is under within that plan. Each of the five major insurance providers: Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna, Humana, and Signa, have some amount of coverage for telehealth services.

Typically, telehealth services are “policy-dependent.” Being policy-dependent simply means that whether or not you receive coverage will be determined by your specific policy. For instance, insurance plans usually have differing tiers of coverage, they are usually Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Gold typically provides the most coverage while Bronze has the most limits. With that said, an individual under the Gold tier may receive telehealth coverage, while an individual with the same plan under the bronze tier may not have telehealth coverage. Understanding the terms and conditions of your plan will help you determine whether or not you can receive telehealth coverage.

Understanding Your Coverage Policy

One helpful way to understand your coverage is to simply reach out to your provider. You may not know where to start when it comes to coverage, so we have gathered a list of potential questions you will want to ask your provider when it comes to telehealth coverage, be sure to collect the reference number at the beginning of the call and record the answers:

  • Can my policy cover telehealth services?
  • What do you consider telehealth services?
    • Can all of the services receive coverage under my policy?
  • Are there any limitations on these services?
    • How many times can I receive this service in a year?
  • Does the service provider need to provide any specific documentation?
  • What billing code should be used?

These are important questions to ask to assure that you can receive the coverage you need for telehealth services. Keeping a record of the conversation can make sure that you receive the appropriate coverage.

Does Telehealth Substance Abuse Treatment Work?

Telemedicine services for substance abuse treatment are both safe and efficient. Keep in mind that due to the current state of the healthcare system, telemedicine services are a viable treatment option for individual’s dealing with a substance abuse addiction. Of course, different types of treatments are necessary depending on the individual and which substance they struggle with.

One of the most effective types of treatment provided through telehealth services is psychotherapy. Individual’s are able to converse with a therapist through video chat from a distance and receive the care they need. Not only is this necessary during a health crisis, but this is also a beneficial option for those that may live in a rural area. Many individuals in Norman and throughout the rest of Oklahoma do not have ready-accessible treatment options. Receiving treatment from a telehealth provider can ensure that they are able to receive effective treatment.  

Telehealth and Opioid Treatment

Not to mention, it is apparent that America is dealing with an opioid crisis. So far, the care most effective at treating an opioid addiction is medication assisted treatment or (MAT). So far the results from the combined distanced psychotherapy and medication have been promising. Typically, MAT services use either methadone or buprenorphine, and have been proven effective in treating an opioid addiction. Oftentimes, patients are unable to receive this treatment at a facility because they simply do not have the access.

However, with the monitoring technologies telehealth services can provide, along with the therapy, not only do telehealth services have a high-retention rate for this type of treatment (91% after the first month in a clinical study), there is also a high success rate (86% of individuals who remained in the program were found to have opioid-negative toxicology). Ultimately, telehealth services are a worthwhile option in unprecedented times.

Addiction Care At A Distance

Telemedicine helps individual’s receive treatment when it is out of the way for them. Whether they are a senior citizen who cannot make the drive, an individual with a compromised immune system, or someone who simply lives in a rural area that has many difficulties in the way of receiving treatment telehealth is accessible. Remember there are a few different types of telemedicine, and that telehealth and telemedicine are not the same thing. Telehealth is the umbrella term that encompasses a multitude of different distance care, and telemedicine falls under the category of telehealth. Remember, technology is central telehealth care. Make sure to evaluate your technology skills before taking on this treatment.

If you have any coverage questions, be sure to reach out to your provider. Make sure that you record the reference number and keep a record of the call. Additionally, we are available at 405-583-4319 to answer any questions you may have about telehealth or telemedicine. Keep in mind that this may be the option for you if you have limited access to treatment in your area. Finding treatment before the health crisis may have been difficult and now worse due to the COVID-19 health epidemic. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you have regarding Telehealth services in Norman, OK.