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Telehealth: Finding Empowerment in Virtual Support Tools

According to “The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care Environment,” the use of telecommunication and information technology in the health care system has been explored since the 1920s. From envisioning treating patients over the radio to establishing a closed-circuit television link between medical locations in the late 50s and early 60s, telehealth has been valued as a tool for connection and healing in medicine. Since its infancy, telehealth has been rooted in lowering barriers to care for underserved communities. Therefore, understanding virtual support tools is valuable to the process of recovery and sustained recovery.

At Driftwood Recovery, we believe connection and engagement in the community are vital to maintaining recovery. Thus, using virtual support tools like our Driftwood Recovery app allows you to strengthen those connections. Recovery should never be jeopardized because of a lack of resources for care and support. You deserve the same opportunities to thrive and sustain your recovery, no matter your level of recovery capital. With virtual support tools, you can dismantle barriers and expand your recovery capital to sustain recovery.

Yet, you may still have questions about virtual support tools and their relationship to telehealth. How does telehealth empower access to care?

What Is Telehealth?

Terms like telemedicine, telehealth, and telecare are often used interchangeably but can also have different meanings. As the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) states, telehealth, telemedicine, and telecare typically encompass advances in information and communications technologies for care. Specifically, information and communication advances allow medical professionals and other healthcare providers to offer remote and interactive services to consumers, patients, clients, and caregivers. Yet, the distinction in terminology can be important for understanding what virtual support tools are used and how those virtual support tools are used.

Listed below are some of the ways telemedicine, telehealth, and telecare are defined:

  • Telemedicine: The use of telecommunications technologies to deliver different kinds of medical, diagnostic, and treatment-related services
    • Typically utilized by doctors to diagnose, treat, and support patients
      • Diagnostic testing, progress monitoring, and access to specialists
  • Telehealth: Evolved from telemedicine; thus, it shares similarities but includes a wider variety of remote healthcare services
    • Services can be provided by other health and care providers like nurses, pharmacists, and social workers
      • Can assist with health education, mental health literacy, social support, and medication management
  • Telecare: The term is more commonly used in Europe and typically refers to technology like virtual support tools that allow clients to remain safe and independent in their homes
    • Health and fitness apps
    • Exercise tracking tools
    • Digital medication reminder systems
    • Early warning and detection technologies

The different terms highlight the variety of virtual support tools in health care. Thus, expanding your knowledge of virtual support tools can help you understand their impact on various areas of care.

Types of Virtual Support Tools

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in awareness of telehealth and virtual support tools. The understanding of telehealth during the pandemic focused on preventative care to maintain social distancing. However, advances have opened the door to official and unofficial psychological virtual support tools. The virtual support tools that were expanded upon during the pandemic include mental health support, video conferencing, and multiplayer gaming. Specifically, the virtual support tools found in mental health services have expanded to meet clients where they are. As noted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), virtual support tools or virtual recovery resources can include:

  • Virtual recovery programs
    • Offers a variety of online meetings, discussion groups, forums, and access to services
      • 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous
  • Online mutual-help groups
    • Offers online and other virtual support tools to support specific and often underserved groups
      • Women's only recovery communities
      • Programs centered on religious and spiritual beliefs
      • Culturally sensitive and responsive programs
        • Education, research, services, and resources
          • Native Americans, Latinx, Black Americans, and LGBTQI+

Virtual support tools highlight the ways information and communication technologies can support well-being.

Benefits of Virtual Support Tools for SUD and Mental Wellness

The remote nature of telehealth opens the door to more accessible and convenient treatment options for a wider audience. Moreover, telehealth can be particularly beneficial to the needs and care for various disorders and conditions:

  • Real-time remote progress monitoring
  • Provide resources for rapid intervention and crisis management
  • Access to therapy and self-help recovery groups
  • Tools for behavioral skill-building
  • Texting interventions for relapse prevention

Further, as previously mentioned, virtual support tools are not only valuable for preventive care, crisis management, and skill building. Virtual support tools also work to dismantle barriers that impede access to services and resources in recovery.

Dismantling Barriers to Sustained Recovery With Telehealth

As noted by SAMHSA, millions of Americans are impacted by substance use disorder (SUD) and severe mental illness (SMI). Yet, 47.7% of Americans have an unmet need for mental health services, and only 12.2% of people receive treatment for SUD. The lack of treatment for SUD and SMI often stems from health disparities and inequities. Thus, telehealth, in conjunction with other accessible formats, can dismantle barriers to treatment and recovery resources:

  • Improve the quality of care
  • Decrease cost of care
  • Improve client experience
  • Increase engagement
  • Improved access to continuity of care
  • Supports aftercare
  • Reduces stigma
  • Decreases geographical barriers

Telehealth can address and support the long-term needs of clients with diverse backgrounds.

Staying Connected: Fostering Sustained Recovery at Driftwood Recovery

Health equity is an invaluable part of treatment and supporting sustained recovery. Through virtual support tools, you are given access to a wide variety of services and other resources to meet your needs. Therefore, at Driftwood Recovery, we are committed to providing a full continuum of care to support your recovery. No matter where you are on your road to recovery, we make support accessible to you. With our virtual support tools, you can continue to thrive and lead the courageous life in recovery you deserve.

Connection and engagement are important parts of treatment and sustained recovery. However, various barriers to services and resources can impede your ability to maintain recovery. Whether you are in early recovery or have been in recovery for years, you can experience challenges with cravings, triggers, and recovery capital. Yet, access to telehealth gives you virtual support tools to help you on your recovery journey. With access to apps, texting interventions, and remote progress monitoring tools, you can stay connected to your sober community, continue to build coping skills, and find support for relapse prevention and crisis management. Therefore, at Driftwood Recovery, we are dedicated to providing an accessible recovery community with our Driftwood Recovery app. Call (512) 759-8330 today.