Phone or Video Telemedicine for Opioid Use Disorder

patient and doctor on telehealth visit on tablet computer

COVID-19 has caused primary care clinics treating opioid use disorder (OUD) to suspend in-person visits. To navigate this access barrier, federal and state agencies have temporarily allowed unprecedented flexibility to use telemedicine, including phone (audio only) visits, for encounters where medications for OUD treatment are prescribed.  

As a result, primary care clinics have rapidly adapted to phone and video visits for the first time in their history. The impact of this adaptation remains unknown because the studies in telemedicine for OUD focus only on video visits.

Led by Cuong Pham, MD, assistant professor of medicine, researchers in this study will investigate the urgent need to understand the acceptability, preference, and barriers of phone versus video visits for patients with OUD and their clinical providers.

“This is an unique opportunity to compare patient and provider perceptions of phone versus video visits as the changes in the law and insurances may cease at any moment,” said Pham. “Immediate understanding of the effect of telemedicine on the treatment of OUD during the COVID-19 pandemic could inform policy discussion for the post-COVID era. For example, phone visits may pose fewer barriers for low-income populations with no access to WiFi or video technology, as well as increase access to care in all underserved care settings across Minnesota. This study may elucidate the positive effects of phone visits and change the delivery of OUD treatment by advocating for a permanent status of phone visits within the law and insurance coverage.”

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.