1. In this study, telemedicine bridge clinics had high show rate and allowed patients to fill prescriptions for opioid use disorder.

2. There was no significant difference in patients who were evaluated with audio-only versus audiovisual techniques.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Opioid use has increased steadily since the 2000s and remains a serious epidemic. Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of overdose deaths were exacerbated. Treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) includes medications such as opioid agonist medications, but there are many barriers for patients seeking care. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a telemedicine bridge clinic could help facilitate engagement for those with OUD.

This study examined the UPMC Medical Toxicology Telemedicine Bridge Clinic (Pennsylvania, United States) between April 27, 2020 – July 31, 2021. Only patients who agreed to be part of the bridge clinic were included. Patients were evaluated with either audio-only or audiovisual methods. Electronic health records were used to obtain medical record numbers, gender, and other demographic information. Results of the study were primarily descriptive in nature to see if such a clinic could serve as a model for other telemedicine bridge clinics.

In this study, 208 patient visits were scheduled, with 200 being evaluated by physicians. The results show that 77% of the Bridge Clinic patients filled 2 or more buprenorphine prescriptions after their initial visit, indicating high engagement. Most of the patients (62%) had insurance through Medicaid, though 19% were uninsured. Outcomes were similar between those who used phone-only versus audiovisual visits. However, this study was limited due to lack of long-term follow up and the use of a single clinic, limiting generalizability. Despite these limitations, the results suggest that telemedicine bridge clinics may be useful long-term for patients suffering from OUD.

Click to read the study in Journal of Addiction Medicine

Image: PD

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