Emergency departments may handle upwards of five million visits related to substance misuse or abuse per year. Providing substance use screening and effective intervention taxes the already demanding emergency department environment. The Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program, recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, was intended to streamline this process. But with deficient funding and staff time constraints, SBIRT has been largely unsustainable.
A telehealth consultation service may be the answer.
Polaris Health Directions and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have developed a telehealth model for the delivery of real-time brief interventions and referral to treatment for substance misuse and abuse in the emergency department.
Individuals identified as needing a consultation are given the option to connect to a counselor by phone either during their visit or at a later time. The counselor provides brief education, counseling, and personalized referrals to treatment providers.
The project was presented in a poster session last week at the 36th annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
The poster shared results of a feasibility and acceptability study of the remote service model among emergency department clinicians and patients. Of the clinician ratings obtained, 86 percent rated their satisfaction with the model and 90 percent rated their likelihood of using the service as good or excellent.
Similarly, nearly all patients who completed a consultation during their visit provided “excellent” ratings regarding their experience.
The findings suggest a remote consultation service could be a successful approach to addressing substance misuse among patients seen in the emergency department—particularly when the patient receives a consultation during their visit rather than shortly after.
The project has been funded with grant money from the National Institutes of Health. Plans for the next phase include testing the effectiveness of the telehealth model against face-to-face interventions.
About Polaris Health Directions
Polaris is a behavioral health technology company dedicated to delivering innovative integrated medical-behavioral health solutions, leveraging its Polestar platform. Established in 1997, Polaris has almost two decades of focused experience supported by more than $13 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and in partnership with preeminent universities and hospital systems.