As telehealth services become a more widely available and accepted form of treatment, providers may find it useful in treating pregnant women battling opioid use disorder (OUD).
In fact, OUD telemedicine treatment can be just as productive and successful as treatment patients might otherwise get in a clinic, new findings suggest.
The study was published by JAMA Network Open.
The authors — a four-person research team from the Medical University of South Carolina-Charleston — analyzed 98 pregnant women, all of whom sought assistance for OUD at the teaching hospital between September 2017 and December 2018.
Of the patients, 54 received OUD treatment from an obstetrician at the hospital, while the other 44 patients received telemedicine assistance from the hospital.
All patients were initially seen by doctors on a weekly basis for four weeks. Visits thereafter dropped to every two weeks for the next four weeks, and monthly after that.
Patient participation in the program dropped slightly for both groups as the study progressed. However, the differences in participation rates between the groups were not statistically significant, the researchers found.
While 41 patients receiving telemedical services stayed in the program after completing an initial evaluation with researchers, 48 in-person patients opted to continue.
Additionally, 35 telemedical patients continued in the program six to eight weeks after giving birth, compared to 44 in-person patients.
Researchers further found no significant difference in the post-partum weight of babies from both patient groups.
“Telemedicine can provide a scalable solution to making life-saving addiction treatment available to pregnant women in obstetric settings to reduce maternal mortality and improve maternal and child health,” the authors said in the study’s conclusion.