Doctor shares how telehealth can help those battling addiction, health conditions amid pandemic

Dealing with addiction during pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Tennessee physician who’s recovering from drug addiction himself says telehealth has changed his practice for the better.

We sat down via teleconference with Dr. Stephen Loyd who says his patients are struggling, battling both addiction and the changes from COVID-19.

“Here’s my fear for Shelby County and the folks I love in Memphis is that when we get on the other side of this we’re going to see that we lost more people from deaths of despair than we did from the actual COVID-19 virus and I think that’ll be a shame," said Loyd.

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The former Tennessee assistant commissioner for substance abuse says telehealth is part of the answer.

It’s a doctor visit through the lens of your cellphone or laptop that removes obstacles to physically going to see a physician.

“So I think telehealth gives us an almost magical way of meeting people if they don’t have a ride, if they’re scared of contact, maybe they have a risk factor that they’re worried about coming into contact with somebody with COVID-19,” said Loyd. "Now we have a way to reach them and keep them safe.”

Loyd says the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement that it will now cover telehealth doctor visits as standard practice is a step in the right direction.

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“When it comes to how healthcare is delivered, like it, dislike it, it doesn’t matter, it’s driven by the payer," said Loyd. "I was very excited about this, I hope that the other companies will follow suit. This is a valuable tool.”

Blue Cross BlueShield began covering telephone and video doctor visits to accommodate social distancing in the pandemic starting back in March.

Telehealth is now a permanent part of Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage in Tennessee that includes visits to general practitioners, specialists and behavioral health doctors like Loyd and that’s a big deal because Blue Cross covers 70% of Tennessee’s private insurance market.

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