Penn Medicine's telehealth program improves opioid use disorder treatment

Penn Medicine's telehealth program was able to help alleviate barriers to opioid use disorder treatment and increased buprenorphine prescriptions by 89 percent, according to a study published Nov. 16 in NEJM Catalyst.

The program, CareConnect, aims to virtually assess opioid use disorder patients and provide prescriptions for buprenorphine, a drug that reduces opioid cravings and treats withdrawal symptoms. 

Since its launch in November 2021, the program received 371 calls and provided 249 buprenorphine prescriptions through September 2022.

The researchers found that 89 percent of program participants filled their first buprenorphine prescription during that period, and 55 percent continued a preexisting prescription for the medication at least 30 days after being engaged, indicating that they continued their treatment.

"This is one of the few places that offers consistent same-day buprenorphine treatment access in Philadelphia," said Margaret Lowenstein, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and the research director of the Penn Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy, in a Nov. 16 release from Penn Medicine. "The alternative is often an emergency department or crisis center or, worst case, going without care. So we're talking about saving hundreds of visits to the emergency department and/or hundreds of people saved from going without any care at all."

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