Subst Use Misuse. 2023 Jan 25:1-5. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2023.2170184. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic drove significant disruptions in access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and harm reduction services. Healthcare delivery via telemedicine has increasingly become the norm, rendering access to a phone essential for engagement in care.
METHODS: Adult patients with SUD who lacked phones (n = 181) received a free, pre-paid phone during encounters with inpatient and outpatient SUD programs. We evaluated changes in healthcare engagement including completed in-person and telemedicine outpatient visits and telephone encounters 30 days before and after phone receipt. We used descriptive statistics, where appropriate, and paired t-tests to assess the change in healthcare engagement measures.
RESULTS: Patients were predominantly male (64%) and white (62%) with high rates of homelessness (81%) and opioid use disorder (89%). When comparing 30 days before to 30 days after phone receipt, there was a significant increased change in number of telemedicine visits by 0.3 (95% CL [0.1,0.4], p < 0.001) and telephone encounters by 0.2 (95% CL [0.1,0.3], p = 0.004). There was no statistically significant change in in-person outpatient visits observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Pre-paid phone distribution to patients with SUD was associated with an increased healthcare engagement including telemedicine visits and encounters.