Alcohol Use Disorder, or Alcoholism, is a multifaceted disease that can be difficult to treat and millions of people around the world have suffered from Alcoholism. The primary difficulty when treating patients with alcoholism is non-compliance. This is not because patients are not committed to treatment, but simply a result of the psychological and physical triggers that people in early recovery from alcoholism always encounter. Blended treatment approaches have become more numerous as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. These blended approaches utilize both telemedicine and in-person treatment programs, and therefore became incredibly useful when Covid-19 made daily close contact between patients and providers more dangerous. This study was published by Biomed Central, and researchers from both Denmark and The Netherlands worked on this analysis.
Pros and Cons of Internet Treatment
Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the obvious benefit of telemedicine and internet-based treatment was cost effectiveness. Lower costs can be a benefit in all types of medical treatment, but lower costs may be especially important for treating substance use disorder because patients with substance use disorder often struggle to pay the large costs of certain treatment types. Telemedicine might also allow more frequent contact between a patient and clinicians. The downside to these benefits is the obvious limits of telemedicine appointments. If clinicians are not actually in the room with a client, it might be more difficult to pick up on signs of distress or signs of a problem the patient is having and is not eager to talk about. These issues are common in alcohol and drug treatment, as patients often feel shame and stigma about the disease they are struggling with. From my perspective as a non-expert, telemedicine could be even more beneficial in the future as we reduce shame and stigma that is currently associated with drug abuse and alcoholism treatment.
The Science of Blended Treatment
According to the study, “While this treatment concept [telemedicine] has been developed and proven effective for a variety of mental disorders, it has not yet been examined for AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder).” The researchers concentrated on patient compliance, because as we stated above, that is the troubling aspect of drug and alcohol treatment when compared to other medical interventions. The researchers went on to state their own results in the following way,
“Blended treatment may increase treatment compliance and thus improve treatment outcomes due to increased flexibility of the treatment course. Since this study is conducted within an implementation framework it can easily be scaled up, and when successful, blended treatment has the potential to become an alternative offer in many outpatient clinics nationwide and internationally.”
Telemedicine outpatient treatment is already available at our drug and alcohol treatment facility in Panama City, Florida. According to these researchers, patients may have more successful outcomes when telemedicine is included in a treatment regimen, and telemedicine is often a lower cost option for patients. This is good news for many people who have already utilized telemedicine services because of the pandemic.
By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)