Buprenorphine Initiation and Retention Through Telehealth for Opioid Use Disorder

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Lindsey Hammerslag, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Division of Biomedical Informatics
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40536

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was designed to examine whether COVID-related changes to buprenorphine prescribing policies, which allowed the use of telehealth during treatment initiation, were associated with benefits for people with opioid use disorder. There’s a push to return to normalcy, with some COVID-related policies being rolled back during the unwinding, and we felt that it was important to make sure that we could provide the evidence policy makers need to make good decisions for patients.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Right now we can’t know with certainty whether telehealth caused better retention in treatment, or if only those patients who were likelier to stay in treatment were offered telehealth care during treatment initiation. We did our best to control for factors in our study, but a follow-up study could try to address whether there really is a cause and effect relationship at play.

We also found that some groups of people, such as men and people who are non-Hispanic Black, were less likely to receive telehealth induction. It will be important for us to understand what is driving these differences in access so that we can ensure that everyone benefits from advances in healthcare technology.  

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response  Flexibilities around telehealth buprenorphine prescribing have been extended through the end of next year, but the future beyond that is uncertain. If you have benefited from telehealth care, or if you’ve had challenges related to telehealth care or accessing buprenorphine, I would encourage you to reach out and share your story with your community and your local representatives.


Hammerslag LR, Mack A, Chandler RK, et al. Telemedicine Buprenorphine Initiation and Retention in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Medicaid Enrollees. JAMA Netw Open. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2810828

 2023;6(10):e2336914. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.36914

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Last Updated on October 20, 2023 by PainRelief.com