Telemedicine Advocacy Results in New Opioid Legislation
By Edward Kaftarian, MD
CEO, Orbit Health Telepsychiatry
Vice-Chair, American Telemedicine Association Tele-mental Health Special Interest Group
Controlled substances are an important tool for psychiatrists. We use them to help patients survive alcohol and heroin addiction. We also use them in the treatment of ADHD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act requires that practitioners issuing a prescription for controlled substances conduct an in-person evaluation. There are exceptions to this rule for telemedicine in specific circumstances, including when a patient is being treated within a DEA registered hospital or clinic.
In addition, Federal law permits the Attorney General to issue a special registration to health care providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. However, the special registration process was never implemented and the telemedicine community was left hanging.
As Vice-Chair of the American Telemedicine Association Tele-mental Health Special Interest Group (SIG), I am proud to say that the SIG has been pushing for a special registration process for several years. We trained and lectured on the topic, lobbied Congress, and even established communication with the DEA. Finally, our efforts have paid off:
Last week, Congress passed sweeping legislation called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Among other provisions, this Act directs the Attorney General to issue final regulations on the procedure for obtaining a special registration to provide controlled substance via telemedicine within one year of enactment. This is important because it will give providers a clear avenue to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth.
Having a clear special registration process will increase peace of mind for providers and healthcare organizations struggling to meet the need of their patients, especially those battling opioid addiction.
Congratulations to the American Telemedicine Association Tele-mental Health SIG for our efforts in making it easier to help millions of people struggling with SUDs and mental health disorders!