Telehealth Model for Improving Access to MOUD
Telehealth is a care
delivery model in which providers and patients communicate through technology, such as video, instead
of in-person. Telehealth is an
effective method of providing MOUD, and rural programs can use telehealth to facilitate access to
prescribing, as well as services such as counseling and other MOUD support services. Telehealth also
eliminates certain barriers to treatment, including the need for transportation and time spent traveling to
providers' offices. Depending on the service, patients may be able to use telehealth to access MOUD
services from their homes or other remote locations. Additionally, rural programs can use telehealth
to connect patients to other services during an in-person clinical appointment.
Smartphone apps are a telehealth tool that can support outpatient MOUD treatment. Smartphone apps can
help providers and patients to connect between in-person visits. They may offer medication reminders,
progress tracking, surveys, scheduling, and other functions. For patients with smartphone
access, apps can provide convenient tools and access to resources to support MOUD treatment.
For additional information about telehealth in rural areas, see the Rural
Examples of Rural Telehealth for MOUD
- Boulder Care has developed a completely virtual MOUD program.
Patients communicate with program staff through video calls and messaging using the Boulder Care
smartphone app. This evidence-based program has a 92% retention rate in the first 12 months of
There are a number of barriers to providing telehealth
services in rural areas. Lack of access to high-speed broadband internet, as well as other
considerations in rural areas, can make it challenging to provide telehealth services. Even where
broadband is available, some people may be without internet due to homelessness or cost. People may
also lack access to devices, including smartphones. During intake, programs can screen patients to
gauge access to and availability of technology such as internet and smartphones.
Another consideration regarding rural telehealth for MOUD is comfort and preference regarding use of
telehealth services. Some physicians prefer in-person visits so they can build a relationship with
the patient, ensure successful initiation of care, and manage ongoing treatment. Similarly, some
patients may prefer in-person visits instead of using technology.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency, many rural programs have expanded their
use of telehealth services for MOUD. More information regarding policies that apply to MOUD services
and programs is available in Policy Considerations.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
for Ensuring Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Rural Maryland
This toolkit discusses rural and urban differences in substance use disorder and access to medication
for opioid use disorder. Outlines a phased approach to developing and implementing a
medication-assisted treatment program.
Author(s): Benford, J., Currens, M., Himelhoch, S., & Weintraub, E.
Organization(s): Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)