There has been a lot of talk in the media about the future of medicine. We have seen robot surgeries and artificially intelligent systems making a better medical diagnosis than even the best doctors in the world. But what about day-to-day medical care?
Telemedicine is gradually becoming mainstream. Health insurance companies are sending out Telehealth cards to their members. Doctors are getting part time work doing telemedicine visits with patients. While there are currently limits to how much care can be provided over a video call, laws are changing and society is becoming more accepting of the concept of Telemedicine.
But what about rehab? Traditionally, we have thought of rehab as being a place that you go away to for at least a month. When your drug or alcohol use is out of control, you, or your loved-ones, decide that you should go away to rehab. You then spend weeks living in a semi-medical facility where you attend group meetings and get to know other people with drug or alcohol problems.
Does the rehab experience have to happen away from home? What exactly are they doing that can’t be done remotely? If a medical doctor can make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment over a video call, why can’t rehab group therapy meetings be done the same way?
If you think this sounds crazy, you might be surprised to learn that it is already happening. On form of rehab is known as an IOP, or an intensive outpatient program. In an IOP, attendees go for several hours each day for several days per week. Otherwise, it is the same as residential rehab. The time spent in IOP is mostly in structured group therapy meetings. IOP programs are starting to go online.
Experts in the field of addiction treatment have determined that IOP can be administered just as effectively and in a way that is legally compliant by Telehealth protocols. This means that you can attend therapy sessions from the privacy of your own bedroom.
Is virtual rehab a good idea? Can it possibly be as effective as residential inpatient rehab programs? Time will tell if online rehab clients get equal or better results. The fact is that rehab does not have a high success rate as it is. So, maybe it is a good idea to try something different now. By updating the rehab experience, there is an opportunity to integrate proven medical therapies to maximize success.
We are still in the early days of online, virtual Telehealth and telemedicine addiction treatment programs. However, it will not be long before addiction treatment will be routinely administered at a distance using technology.