Everything to Know About Telehealth Addiction Treatment

Telehealth addiction treatment:
A better way to get the care you need

Workit Health began providing telehealth medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in 2017. Our unique program uses telemedicine to deliver a range of solutions for alcohol and opioid use disorders, including individual and group-based psychotherapy delivered by a licensed coach or counselor, science-based therapeutic courses, and clinical care including FDA-approved medication, including Suboxone and naltrexone, when appropriate. 

The combination of behavioral health support and MAT is a highly successful approach and is considered the gold-standard of treatment for opioid use disorder. This is endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Workit Health brings this impactful, whole-person treatment directly into people’s homes via telehealth.

holding phone chatting with doctor

Workit Health’s model of telemedicine for addiction treatment

How it works

Here’s how Workit’s telehealth MAT program works:

  1. Schedule an appointment
    It only takes a few minutes. Download our app and answer a few questions about your treatment goals, then schedule your orientation appointment.
  2. Attend an orientation
    In an online, video appointment, you’ll meet with your care team to complete your sign-up by getting oriented to your treatment plan and steps.
  3. Get the support you need
    After your orientation, you can schedule appointments with your Workit provider—who can e-prescribe medication to your local pharmacy—message your care team any time you’re struggling, talk with your coach or counselor, work through courses written by experts, take drug tests (shipped to you at no additional cost), and engage with recovery groups. All of this happens in the Workit Health mobile app.

How the experts describe telemedicine services

Telehealth addiction treatment used to be out of the ordinary, and many people doubted it could work as well as in-person treatment. But now it is widely recognized as being just as effective, while being more flexible and accessible.  Telemedicine removes barriers to care and increases patient engagement as people are more relaxed in their home environment. Here is what the experts say:

“The use of telemedicine to reach patients with OUD is as revolutionary as the approval of buprenorphine was in 2002. Now, we are easily able to reach patients who are unable to make it to traditional bricks and mortar medical facilities for a variety of reasons: lack of transportation, mobility issues, child care, distance from a licensed provider, and paralyzing anxiety, to name a few. It is enormously gratifying as a medical provider to have the ability to bring state-of-the-art medicine to suffering patients in the comfort of their own homes. I am convinced that telemedicine treatment of OUD will save countless lives.” 

Dr. Kevin Armington, MD

“Telemedicine breaks down barriers to care in so many ways. There’s the obvious fact that it’s very convenient for our clients—they don’t have to take time off work for appointments, or look for a babysitter, or worry about finding transportation. It lets people continue with their daily lives and still receive high-quality care. There are some more subtle benefits—I find that people are more relaxed when they meet with me via telemedicine. They’re in their own space where they are comfortable. It de-medicalizes the encounter and lets people be themselves and open up.” 

Dorothy Moore, FNP and Assistant Professor of Nursing at San Jose State University

The effectiveness of telehealth for addiction treatment

There is a large and growing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and of telemedicine. Below is a brief look at the research, some pros and cons of telehealth MAT, and a comparison of telehealth addiction treatment vs inpatient care. 

Research in support of MAT

The goal of medication-assisted treatment is to lead a person to long-term recovery, including the ability to live a self-directed life. There are numerous studies to support the effectiveness of MAT. According to SAMHSA, this treatment approach:

  • Improves patient survival
  • Increases retention in treatment
  • Decreases illicit opioid use and other criminal activities among people with substance use disorders
  • Increases patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improves birth outcomes among pregnant women with substance use disorders

Research shows that MAT is a far more successful treatment of opioid use disorder (than alternatives), resulting in less likelihood of overdoses

Telemedicine for addiction treatment

Telehealth using web-based psychotherapy for substance use disorders and mental health is a rapidly expanding model of healthcare that is supported by numerous research studies.

Research shows that the use of telemedicine technologies—texting, videoconferencing, mobile apps, web-based supports, telephone supports, and the use of virtual interaction—demonstrated superior outcomes compared to traditional care

However, there are limitations to telemedicine for addiction treatment. The majority of platforms don’t focus on the goal of the individual, which may fall within a range of harm reduction goals from abstinence to moderation. Instead, they focus only on abstinence when evidence shows, unequivocally, that medication-assisted treatment is a successful pathway of recovery for opioid use disorder. It’s this lack of personalization that makes telemedicine for addiction treatment limited in potential. 

In contrast, Workit Health delivers personalized behavioral health support to individuals in varying stages of opioid use disorder. We know that psychotherapy is a generally effective addition to MAT, especially if the approaches are tailored and flexible. In addition to the online curriculum, Workit coaches and counselors provide real-time support through chat messaging, video calls, and group sessions. 

Workit learnings and results

At Workit Health, we strive to measure outcomes to ensure safety for medication users and improve the quality of our program. Our most recent study demonstrated improved clinical outcomes over traditional care models. 

We found that Workit provides these benefits:

  1. It reaches a diverse population across a variety of ages, genders, geographic locations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  2. Patients quickly reduce the use of their substance of choice.
  3. Patients are more likely to remain in our program because Workit overcomes many barriers to care.
  4. Workit’s harm reduction model leads to a higher rate of truthful self-reports of use.
  5. Workit members rarely leave our offering for other providers of methods of care.
  6. Workit members report an improvement in quality of life.

Pros and cons of telehealth addiction treatment

Telemedicine can be of great benefit to those seeking recovery support, but it’s normal to question whether it is right for you. Here are some of the pros and cons of telehealth MAT: 

PROS

  • Increased access to addiction treatment
  • Better quality and frequency of care
  • Real-time support reduces the risk of relapse
  • Telehealth can reduce the need to visit the ER
  • Avoid germs in waiting rooms or spreading a virus
  • Reduced waiting times 
  • Ability to see providers in the comfort of their own home
  • Save money on transportation 
  • Spend less time traveling and away from work
  • No childcare constraints
  • Less stress trying to juggle priorities

CONS

  • Some insurers don’t cover telehealth
  • Telemedicine and licensing laws vary from state to state
  • It can be difficult to adapt to virtual meetings
  • Security risks with electronic transfer of patient information
  • IT challenges
  • Some homes lack privacy for appointments 

Success stories: Reviews from real Workit Health members

Workit Health’s innovative approach to telehealth addiction treatment not only reaches a diverse population by reducing barriers to care, but it also enables our members to experience an improvement in their quality of life—so much so that Workit participants rarely leave our offerings for other providers or methods of care. 84% of Workit members stay in the program longer than 30 days, compared to an industry average 33% for traditional treatment. 41% of Workit members receive treatment for longer than one year.

Don’t just take our word for it, though—read what our patients have to say about our expert, nonjudgmental Care Team and telehealth MAT:

Flexibility and convenience of the program

“For me, in my experience I feel that Workit is an AMAZING program. I only wish I found it sooner. It’s very private, easy to use, and the team is always quick to contact.”

“Workit has changed my life in so many ways! I was trapped in the cycle of addiction and inpatient rehab wasn’t an option for me because I have a family to support. I needed treatment that would flow with my life, not uproot my life.”

“This has helped me greatly. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone not being able to get to their doctor/therapist/drug test/recovery coach several times a week. This app/clinic has enabled lots of people that want help to get it.”

“I’m happy to report that I no longer consider myself addicted—I kicked the unhealthy habit! I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened without an online program like Workit: I’m too mortified to go to in-person help, and it wouldn’t have been convenient either. This is a perfect, self-paced way to get myself healthy.”

“Being able to message counselors anytime I need to. Really be able to reach out anytime with any concerns. Also being able to go with my work schedule has really been a lifesaver (possibly literally.)”

When other programs didn’t work

“Great program. I struggled with opiate use for years. I’ve been to several Suboxone doctors, but it was with this program I was able to get clean. I highly recommend it. I received the kindest and most understanding care with Workit. I’ve had two doctors refuse to treat/help me in the past. I’m happy to report that Workit never gave up on me and I now have two years drug free! The app is great: works well and you can access anything in the program via the app. No complaints!” — Mandy, July 2020

“Better than any other recovery program out there. If this is available to you, consider yourself very lucky. I do. Thank you.”

“Workit is AMAZING I have been in the program for a couple of years successfully where I have failed in prior rehab attempts. It’s very easy if time is an issue for you like myself. You get great coaches and I just adore my doctor. Everyone has been so helpful and kind. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Workit and have referred a few friends who are doing well also.”

The use of MAT and manageability of the program

“I have nothing but gratitude for everything that Workit has done for me. Specifically, the access to buprenorphine has allowed me to leave behind the aspect of myself that was dependent on painkillers. My life, as a whole, has been much more manageable since starting with Workit. I deeply appreciate everything the program has done for me. Because the courses are done on one’s own time, rather than forced physical meetings, etc., I’ve been able to heal from my own deep addiction at my own pace, on my own time, on my own terms. This was probably the only way for me to become clean, and I’m grateful to you all.” 

“This is a great program for me! I have tried so many other ways to conquer my 10-year opioid dependence, and all the hassle that comes with it, to no avail! I feel great on this med plus the team of coaches, doctors and administrators are here for me when I need them. I feel like they care and that is something you don’t see every day! I have more time to do positive and constructive things with my day now! Very happy with this program.”

Ease of use

“Wow! What an awesome source for help! This app/clinic has been the best medical help I’ve ever received. They’re so personable and truly care about your sobriety. It’s a very easy app to use and very helpful in recovery! I recommend this EVERYONE who needs help with addiction. It’s the best!”

“I love how easy and simple the program is. I love how my doctor keeps it real and wants to see me do better. Overall this has been an amazing experience so far.”

Personalized program

“When you’re at hospitals you’re treated almost like an object where you talk and people hear the sound but don’t listen to what you say or even care because the staff is overworked and sees so many people. You’re just another number they want to get in and out. Workit is so much different—it’s convenient, personal, and just better all around. These people are doing a great job.”

Improvements to the quality of life

“Moving through the Workit program has been a truly amazing experience. It has helped shape me into the happy, healthy, clean and sober person that I am today. I continue to grow every day and Workit is helping to guide me along in my journey.”

“Workit Health is by far the best program for substance abuse treatment I’ve ever experienced. The program is extremely helpful, and I am doing so well in my recovery. I couldn’t ask for a better program and would suggest it to anyone suffering with addiction.“

Read more testimonials and reviews of Workit Health here

The Workit Difference: Designing a Better Solution 

The Workit Health model is made up of six modules based on the following evidence-based practices for substance use, to help you create lasting change.

Mission: Solution-focused therapy, motivational enhancement therapy

Body: Holistic harm reduction, psychoeducation

Mind: Cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse prevention

Heart: Supportive-expressive therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy

Spirit: Acceptance & commitment therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, narrative therapy, existential therapy

Community: Family systems therapy, assertiveness training, 12-step facilitation

Start feeling like yourself again

Citations

6. Molfenter, T., Brown, R., O’Neill, A., Kopetsky, E., & Toy, A. (2018). Use of Telemedicine in Addiction Treatment: Current Practices and Organizational Implementation Characteristics. International journal of telemedicine and applications, 2018, 3932643. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/3932643

7. Lin, L., Casteel, D., Shigekawa, E., Weyrich, M, Roby, D., & McMenamin, S. (2019). Telemedicine-delivered treatment interventions for substance use disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 101: 38-49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sat.2019.03.007

8. Yang YT, Weintraub E, Haffajee RL. Telemedicine’s Role in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic. Mayo Clin Proc. 2018;93(9):1177-1180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.07.001