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Use of Telehealth in Substance Use Disorder Services During and After COVID-19: Online Survey Study

  • Molfenter, Todd1
  • Roget, Nancy2
  • Chaple, Michael3
  • Behlman, Stephanie1
  • Cody, Olivia1
  • Hartzler, Bryan4
  • Johnson, Edward5
  • Nichols, Maureen6
  • Stilen, Patricia7
  • Becker, Sara8
  • 1 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI , (United States)
  • 2 University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV , (United States)
  • 3 Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, NY , (United States)
  • 4 University of Washington, Seattle, WA , (United States)
  • 5 Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA , (United States)
  • 6 The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX , (United States)
  • 7 University of Missouri, Kansas City, MO , (United States)
  • 8 Brown University, Providence, RI , (United States)
Published Article
JMIR Mental Health
JMIR Publications
Publication Date
Feb 08, 2021
DOI: 10.2196/25835
PMID: 33481760
PMCID: PMC7895293
PubMed Central
External links


Background Social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 have caused a rapid transition to telephone and video technologies for delivering treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Objective This study examined the adoption of these technologies across the SUD service continuum, acceptance of these technologies among service providers, and intent of providers to use these technologies after the pandemic. Additional analysis using the validated technology acceptance model (TAM) was performed to test the potential applications of these technologies after the pandemic. The study objectives were as follows: (1) to assess the use of telehealth (telephone and video technologies) for different SUD services during COVID-19 in May-June 2020, (2) to assess the intended applications of telehealth for SUD services beyond COVID-19, (3) to evaluate the perceived ease of use and value of telehealth for delivering SUD services, and (4) to assess organizational readiness for the sustained use of telehealth services. Methods An online survey on the use of telephonic and video services was distributed between May and August 2020 to measure the current use of these services, perceived organizational readiness to use these services, and the intent to use these services after COVID-19. In total, 8 of 10 regional Addiction Technology Transfer Centers representing 43 states distributed the survey. Individual organizations were the unit of analysis. Results In total, 457 organizations responded to the survey. Overall, the technology was widely used; >70% (n>335) of organizations reported using telephone or video platforms for most services. The odds of the intent of organizations to use these technologies to deliver services post COVID-19 were significantly greater for all but two services (ie, telephonic residential counseling and buprenorphine therapy; mean odds ratio 3.79, range 1.87-6.98). Clinical users preferred video technologies to telephone technologies for virtually all services. Readiness to use telephone and video technologies was high across numerous factors, though telephonic services were considered more accessible. Consistent with the TAM, perceived usefulness and ease of use influenced the intent to use both telephone and video technologies. Conclusions The overall perceived ease of use and usefulness of telephonic and video services suggest promising post–COVID-19 applications of these services. Survey participants consistently preferred video services to telephonic services; however, the availability of telephonic services to those lacking easy access to video technology is an important characteristic of these services. Future studies should review the acceptance of telehealth services and their comparative impact on SUD care outcomes.

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