UMass Memorial Hospital launching new program to combat opioid epidemic

UMass Memorial Hospital launching new program to combat opioid epidemic

Getting to the doctor isn’t always easy, especially for those struggling with addiction. UMass Memorial Hospital is launching a new program to reach more opioid patients with newer technology. It’s an effort to get more people off drugs in the small window of opportunity right after an overdose.

Telemedicine could make a difference in the opioid crisis. And while it may just look like a video call, it’s much more than that.

Doctors at UMass Memorial Hospital will now be able to treat opioid patients near or far with telemedicine.

Content Continues Below

“No matter where someone overdoses ends up, you know you shouldn’t get less or worse care, suboptimal care because you live somewhere far away,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lai, a specialist at UMass Memorial Hospital.

The program is called telesude, a new way to offer ‘substance use disorder evaluations’ to more people in need. Those patients may go to their local hospital after overdosing, but those hospitals don’t always have specialists.

“Definitely after in the immediate post-overdose period, it’s a really vulnerable period,” Dr. Lai said. “A lot of emotions and adrenaline and things like that going on, and I think it represents an opportunity for an intervention.”

Doctor Lai says tablets can allow for a quick face-to-face consultation with an addiction expert, who can better give a patient the resources or even medicine they need to avoid using those drugs.

“Our platform is a cloud-based HIPPA secured platform that allows us to provide virtual consults from almost anywhere, almost anytime,” said David Smith, the Associate Vice President of Virtual Medicine at UMass Memorial.

Smith says the new program is catching on with more and more patients.

“It is truly the way of the future,” Smith said. “And I think one of the advantages of this type of technology is that it does adapt very well, in particularly generationally with the millennial population are always ‘on.’”

He says so many people are always on their phones or tablets, so doctors are hoping to tap into that form of communication to better treat those who need the most help.

“What we found is that not only are most people very comfortable with interacting with the clinicians through the telemedicine but some actually preferred it and found that it added an element of privacy and actually enjoyed that encounter,” Dr. Lai said.

The opioid task force at UMass Memorial Hospital was awarded a $200,000 grant to fund this new telesude program, which officially begins next month.