There is no question about the positive impact telemedicine has on delivering medical care to remote areas. Rural communities with little to no access to healthcare services have seen successful outcomes with telehealth programs, which offer a more convenient way to obtain treatment. Many healthcare settings benefit from telehealth, such as hospitals, private practices, urgent cares and specialty clinics, but the newest addition is using it for drug treatment programs.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance has granted $100,000 to the South Dakota Department of Social Services to implement a new drug treatment program. The program will use telehealth to provide services to drug and alcohol abusers who live in remote areas of South Dakota, with limited access to medical care. In the past, judges have had no choice but to send drug offenders to prison when there is no option for them to receive treatment. Now, probation with treatment would be a viable alternative. While South Dakota has already implemented telehealth in areas like psychiatry, drug treatment will be a new and cost-effective way to keep offenders out of jail and off the streets.
With these types of programs, providers consult with patients confidentially, which is especially important in treating adolescents. Even in large cities, centers such as Tarzana Treatment Centers use telemedicine to alleviate the stigma and time constraints associated with parents obtaining treatment for their children. Hopefully, programs like these will help pave the way for more fields to utilize telemedicine to bring effective and convenient care to their patient populations.