A recent study by the National Institutes of Health determined that people with substance use disorders are more likely to develop COVID-19 and experience more severe symptoms. Alcohol abuse causes inflammation in the body, weakens the immune system, and puts the body at risk for bacterial and viral infections. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can damage tissue in the lungs and cause acute respiratory distress system, putting people with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) who contract COVID at a greater risk of mortality.
Not only are those with AUD more at risk for severe COVID symptoms, but there is also evidence to suggest that alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic. Due to social distancing regulations and stay-at-home orders, many people are experiencing extreme stress, loneliness, and boredom, putting them more at risk for excessive drinking.
Traditionally, alcohol recovery support has been most accessible through in-person meetings like AA and other accountability groups. Despite the rise of technological advancements that make remote treatment more accessible, it wasn’t until in-person visits were unadvisable that Telehealth for AUD became more common.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common forms of Telehealth for AUD treatment programs are computerized assessments (45%), telephone-based recovery support (29%), telephone-based therapy (28%), and video-based therapy (20%). These technological forms of support offer much-needed remote care for those with AUD. Through online assessments, virtual private therapy sessions, and online support groups, many people have had access to the treatment and encouragement they need to stay sober during such a trying time.
In addition to the benefits of computerized assessments, telephone-based recovery support, telephone-based therapy, and video-based therapy, smartphone apps and texting can also be used to benefit the recovery process. These technological tools allow providers to connect with clients daily, giving them an opportunity to check-in and offer encouragement. These easy points of contact can play a meaningful role in someone’s recovery, especially if they are in a state of isolation due to the pandemic.
Not only can smartphone apps and text messages be used to support those in alcohol recovery and offer another avenue for immediate support, but these tools also make it possible to monitor alcohol use remotely and efficiently.
Soberlink is an alcohol monitoring system that combines a professional-grade remote breathalyzer with wireless connectivity to document sobriety in real-time. This FDA-cleared alcohol testing device uses smartphone notifications and text messages to remind users to submit a test, often 2-3 times a day. Real-time results are stored in the Advanced Reporting™ software shared with a patient’s Recovery Circle as a tool for progress tracking and accountability. This proof of sobriety not only builds trust with friends and family, it can also improve the experience of Telehealth Addiction Treatment and produce positive outcomes.
With the significant shift in our day-to-day lives since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many clinicians and treatment facilities have adapted to these changes and continued to thrive. However, many other industry professionals have not been able to adjust and have been negatively impacted by the pandemic as a result.
It comes as no surprise that many nationwide restaurants, retailers, and fitness centers have struggled to stay afloat. Some treatment facilities, recovery centers, and clinicians are facing similar hardships. While the list of businesses that have struggled during the COVID pandemic is extensive, many practices have adapted to better serve their patients during this time.
Many companies have declined during COVID because they weren’t able or willing to adapt accordingly. While changing a business plan can be intimidating, it’s possible to explore new avenues for success without compromising your company values.
Consider the following questions when adapting your business:
• What ways can you offer value to your patients online?
• What online platforms are best suited to your business?
• Can you improve your reach to attract more clients?
• How can you involve your team in these changes?
• In what ways will these changes positively impact your business and positive client outcomes in the future?
By keeping your clinic’s mission at the heart of the changes you’re making as you develop a cohesive vision for the future, you’ll set your business and patients up for success during the pandemic and beyond.
The need for Telehealth recovery services is greater now than ever. Not only are those with AUD more likely to develop COVID-19, but they’re also more likely to experience adverse symptoms — and with alcohol consumption on the rise, online resources for recovery are essential. Fortunately, with modern tools like video-based therapy, virtual recovery support groups, and Soberlink wireless alcohol monitoring, treatment for AUD is becoming more and more accessible.
Taking inspiration from other companies who have successfully adapted to better serve their clients during the pandemic, it’s easy to see how Recovery Professionals can connect with their patients virtually without losing their core values. There has never been a more opportune time to make adjustments to your business model so you can better serve your clients throughout the COVID pandemic and well into the future.