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Telehealth-Based Initiation Associated With Improved OUD Treatment Retention

Opioid use disorder (OUD) patients who initiated buprenorphine treatment through telehealth were found to be more likely to remain engaged with treatment longer than those who began treatment in a non-telehealth setting, according to a National Institute on Addictive Disorders (NIDA) study that was released on Wednesday.

The findings, based on an analysis of Medicaid data from 2019 to 2020 in Kentucky and Ohio, were published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers led by a team at the University of Kentucky in Lexington reviewed Medicaid claims and enrollment data for individuals between the ages of 18 and 64. Nearly 92,000 patients within the dataset had a buprenorphine prescription in at least 1 quarter of 2020, and nearly 43,000 started treatment in 2020.

In Kentucky, 48% of patients who began buprenorphine treatment by telehealth remained in treatment for 90 continuous days, while 44% of those who started their treatment in a non-telehealth setting remained in treatment for the same duration. In Ohio, 32% of telehealth patients maintained treatment for 90 consecutive days, compared to 28% of the non-telehealth population.

Moreover, the study authors found that receiving buprenorphine via telehealth was not associated with increased likelihood of nonfatal overdose.

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