Telehealth prescribers are not more lax about giving patients anxiety, ADHD medication, study finds

A study from EHR vendor Epic Systems found that providers who conduct telehealth visits for patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety are no more or less likely to prescribe medication during visits than physicians who meet with patients in person. 

The study analyzed 205,065 first-time visits for ADHD and 933,455 first-time visits for anxiety from Jan. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2023, to assess the medication prescribing rates for telehealth versus in-person visits. 

Stimulants are considered a first-line treatment for ADHD and are classified as controlled substances. They are not typically prescribed for anxiety, which was used as a comparison point.

The study found that:

  • Prescribing rates for ADHD medication within 30 days of initial diagnosis are similar for both telehealth and in-person office visits.

  • Anti-anxiety medication prescriptions within 30 days of a telehealth or in-person visit were also found to be similar; however, anti-anxiety medications were prescribed less often than ADHD medications, according to the June 27 study.

This comes at a time when the Drug Enforcement Agency tried to propose a rule that would require physicians to conduct an in-person evaluation prior to prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine, though after significant pushback, the DEA granted a temporary extension allowing physicians to prescribe controlled substances virtually without an in-person evaluation.

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