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Telehealth for Opioid Use Disorder: Retention as a Function of Demographics and Rurality

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We aimed to analyze 180-day and 365-day retention in treatment with buprenorphine for OUD overall and by demographics.

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Published on May 8, 2024

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This white paper represents the views of the author, not America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The publication, distribution or posting of this white paper by AHIP does not constitute a guaranty of any product or service by AHIP.


Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and related Public Health Emergency, still in place as of late 2022, much of in-person outpatient health care in the US abruptly shifted to telehealth. While many fields, notably surgery, dermatology, and obstetrics, have mostly returned to in-person care, the use of telehealth has persisted across the health-care landscape. Nowhere is this more true than in behavioral health, where upward of 30–50% of the visits nationwide continue to be held remotely (1). There were initial concerns that telehealth platforms would offer infer- ior outcomes to traditional, in-person care; however, it has become apparent telehealth may offer better outcomes for some patients, especially in behavioral health (2). The combination of superior outcomes with increased access may be a potent force for stemming the onslaught of opioid-involved overdose deaths, especially for individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) in marginalized and underserved communities.