Talkspace and Bicycle partner on opioid use and mental health

Virtual opioid use disorder (OUD) therapy provider Bicycle Health has teamed up with telemedicine specialist Talkspace to expand access to care for patients battling addiction in the US.

Bicycle Health provides medication for OUD treatment, drug screening, behavioural therapy, and peer support via an app that has been used by tens of thousands of people across the US.

The digital health company will now be able to tap into Talkspace’s web and mobile telemedicine platform for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

It is accessible to around 113 million people in the US – under insurance provided through employers, health plans, and paid benefits programmes – via a network of around 5,000 therapists nationwide.

Partnering with Bicycle Health, meanwhile, allows Talkspace to bolster its capacity to help people with OUD through the alliance, which recognises that around 7.7 million adults in the US have both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health condition at the same time. More than half of people in that category receive treatment for neither, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

“Opioid use disorder does not exist in a vacuum,” said Dr Brian Clear, Bicycle Health’s chief medical officer. “Like patients in all care settings, Bicycle Health patients often experience depression, anxiety, or other behavioural conditions beyond their addiction, and many will benefit from a relationship with a therapist at Talkspace with expertise to meet their needs.”

The need for therapy is high, but patients often face barriers to care, including stigma, access to licensed therapists, and affordability, according to the partners, and a telemedicine approach can remove some of those obstacles.

“Now, in addition to our own internal therapist team, our clinicians have the ability to connect our patients to a therapist at Talkspace quickly and reliably, whenever that’s the right choice for any patient,” said Clear.

Last year, Bicycle Health reported the results of a study of its telehealth approach to OUD at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) annual meeting, showing that within the first 30 days of treatment, patients reported less use of drugs and alcohol and experienced fewer triggers, cravings, or behaviours that could increase the risk of relapse.

It isn’t the first alliance for Bicycle Health with a telemedicine provider, as, in 2022, the company partnered with Tele911 – a telemedicine company focused on reducing medically unnecessary ambulance transports of stable 911 patients to hospital emergency rooms – to increase access to OUD care.

Last year, it also joined forces with Override Health, a virtual chronic pain management clinic, to allow its users to discuss chronic pain management with specialists across pain medicine, physical therapy, psychology, and pain coaching. The partnership is also aimed at helping Override Health spot pain customers who may be struggling with OUD and refer them for treatment.

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