Online Medication-Assisted Treatment Programs Scoring Criteria
With the emergence of online platforms providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to those struggling with addiction, Choosing Therapy aims to identify MAT platforms offering exceptional services, providers, and care. With millions of people being impacted by addiction every day, it’s important to direct patients toward resources that are effective, reliable, and safe. We want to identify MAT companies that are offering exceptional care, as well as companies that are lacking essential forms of support. For instance, ideal care will include a “whole-person” approach, personalized medication-assisted treatment plans, therapy and counseling from qualified providers, and other support services to help those with substance use disorders.
Below you’ll find a list of our online MAT scoring criteria, which include stand-out services and features that directly contribute to a patient’s success in a medication-assisted treatment program. You’ll also see a breakdown of how each category is scored in our star-rating system.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Options
The FDA has approved several different medications that help control cravings, provide relief from withdrawal symptoms, and lower the risk of overdose. Ideal programs will offer MAT services that are personalized and administered by licensed prescribers with a strong background in addiction recovery healthcare. Before a patient receives a prescription, they must go through a comprehensive video evaluation to determine if medication-assisted treatment is right for them. Companies should make it easy to access medication by sending prescriptions directly to a patient’s local pharmacy. MAT plans should also be closely monitored with routine drug testing to ensure a patient’s safety.
Medication-assisted treatment programs that treat various forms of addiction, such as alcoholism, opioid use disorder, and stimulant use disorder, will score higher than programs that only treat one substance use disorder. In addition, we’re looking for treatment plans that provide medication to ease additional symptoms, such as insomnia or nausea. Prescriptions should be sent directly to a patient’s local pharmacy and treatment plans need to include a structured video-appointment follow-up schedule. Companies should also have a crisis management plan in place for emergency situations involving medication-assisted treatment.
Star-Ratings for Medication-Assisted Treatment Options
5-Stars– This medication-assisted treatment program offers a wide range of medications for various addictions. Patients can also be prescribed medications for symptoms that frequently co-occur with treatment, like insomnia, or nausea. MAT plans are highly personalized to fit the needs of each patient. The company makes it easy for patients to complete routine drug tests and access medication from their local pharmacy. There’s a structured video-appointment follow-up schedule with the patient’s healthcare provider, and a crisis management plan is in place for emergency situations.
3-Stars– The company only provides medication-assisted treatment plans for one form of substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder and they do not receive medication for symptoms resulting as a side effect to treatment. There is routine drug testing, but treatment plans lack personalization and structure. Patients may report experiencing issues with follow-up appointments or accessing their prescriptions. There is no set crisis management plan in place in the case of an emergency.
1-Star– We found the company’s medication-assisted treatment program ineffective or unsafe and do not recommend patients seeking treatment with this program.
Dual Diagnosis Services
Many people struggling with addiction also face co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, which is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Online medication-assisted treatment programs will score higher if they offer medication and treatment for dual diagnoses. Dual diagnosis services are a cornerstone of the “whole-person” approach to treating addiction. A whole-person approach is when healthcare providers take into consideration other areas in a patient’s life that could impact their recovery, such as their physical and mental health, employment, lifestyle, nutrition, or housing.
If a dual diagnosis is left untreated, it can significantly decrease the likelihood of success in a MAT program. Dual diagnosis services should include a comprehensive evaluation, personalized treatment plan, structured appointment schedule to monitor progress, and prescriptions available for pick up at a local pharmacy.
Star-Ratings for Dual Diagnosis Services
5-Stars– Patients have the option of undergoing an evaluation for co-occurring mental health conditions. They receive a diagnosis, personalized treatment plan, and any prescriptions deemed necessary are sent directly to a local pharmacy. Patients have a structured video-appointment follow-up schedule in place so their healthcare provider can monitor any co-occurring disorders alongside medication-assisted treatment plans for addiction.
3-Stars– Dual diagnosis services are available, but medication and treatment are limited to the most common co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The treatment plans lack personalization and structure.
1-Star– The company does not offer dual diagnosis services.
Mental Health Support
An ideal medication-assisted treatment program will offer several different forms of mental health support, such as one-on-one therapy, marriage/couples counseling, group counseling, family therapy, or recovery coaching with licensed professionals. Therapy, counseling, and coaching are also key elements of the whole-person approach to treating substance use disorders. Patients have a greater chance of succeeding in a recovery program when they have access to licensed mental health professionals that offer a wide range of therapeutic services.
A company will score higher if these services are included in the overall cost of the recovery program and patients can communicate with therapists or counselors via text, phone, and video. Therapy or counseling appointments should be scheduled according to an individual’s needs. If a patient is dissatisfied with a therapist or counselor, they should have the option of switching to a different mental health professional.
Star-Ratings for Mental Health Support
5-Stars– The company offers a wide range of therapeutic services with licensed mental health professionals. The cost of therapy is included with the program and patients are allowed to switch to new therapists or counselors if needed. Patients can connect with therapeutic support staff via text, phone, or video. Appointments are scheduled according to the patient’s needs.
3-Stars– The company offers limited therapeutic services. For instance, they offer online peer group support, but not one-on-one therapy appointments. OR they offer a wide range of therapeutic services, but these services are not included in the overall cost of the program.
1-Star– There are no mental health services offered within the addiction recovery program. OR there are limited therapeutic services, but no option to switch to a new provider.
Companies will score higher on our scale if they offer additional resources that go beyond medication-assisted treatment and mental health support. Additional resources can come in many forms, but overall, they should be scientifically proven to effectively assist in recovery and fall in line with the whole-person approach to treating addiction.
For example, additional resources may be:
- Educational activities or coursework on addiction
- Mindfulness classes to help patients learn to curb cravings<
- Supplemental care team members to help patients with non-clinical issues, like finding employment, childcare, transportation, or helping create a budget
These additional resources should be included in the cost of the program.
Star-Ratings for Additional Resources
5-Stars– The company provides additional resources that go beyond medication-assisted treatment and therapy, like educational activities on addiction and learning life skills. These resources fall in line with the whole-person approach to treating addiction and have been scientifically proven to be effective in treating addiction.
3-Stars– The company provides one additional resource, but they lack scientific support, substance, and effectiveness.
1-Star– The company does not provide additional resources beyond medication-assisted treatment and/or therapy.
When reviewing online medication-assisted treatment programs, one of the top five factors we assess is how widely available services are across the United States. Programs that are more widely available will score higher in this category, as they serve a larger percentage of the population and increase access to care. Programs that are more widely available also make it easier to maintain care during a move, travel, or when frequently commuting between states for work or school.
Star-Ratings for Geographic Location
5-Stars– Treatment is available nationwide OR covers 50% or more of the US population.
3-Stars– Treatment covers around 30% of the US population.
1-Star – Treatment covers less than 10% of the US population.
Cost of Care
The best online medication-assisted treatment programs will be very clear and upfront about the expected costs for services and medication. Whether it be a monthly or weekly subscription fee or a per-session fee, patients should know all expected costs prior to signing up for services.
It should also be easy to understand how you’ll be charged, either through your credit card or FSA/HSA card and when charges will occur. Monthly subscriptions should have no hidden costs for extra features, like coursework, group webinars, or mindfulness exercises. Truly great online medication-assisted treatment programs will also offer sliding scale fees, discounts, or payment plans of some type to make services more accessible.
Star-Ratings for Cost of Care
5-Stars– Total cost of care and medication are clearly provided prior to signing up and there are no additional hidden fees. There are sliding scales or discounts available to those who qualify.
3-Stars– Total cost of care isn’t initially clear, but there are no additional hidden costs. If there are sliding scales or discounts available, you have to ask about this prior to signing up.
1-Star– Total cost of care is not provided until after you have completed the registration process. Billing practices are inconsistent and confusing. There are no discounts, sliding scales, or payment plans available to make treatment more accessible.
Insurance & Out-of-Network Benefits
Whether an online medication-assisted treatment program accepts insurance will be a key deciding factor for many seeking treatment. In addition to accepting insurance, we also look at how many insurance plans are accepted and whether they’re specific to certain states. Ideal programs will have an enrollment coordinator that assists all patients with this process before they see a provider.
Additionally, we look at whether a program assists patients in using out-of-network benefits. Companies that provide a more “white glove” service when it comes to paying with insurance or using out-of-network benefits, and that make the process as easy and understandable as possible, will earn more points in this category.
Star-Ratings for Insurance & Out-of-Network Benefits
5-Stars– The company accepts insurance from many major insurance providers. The process of inputting insurance information is easy and there is a live person available if patients need help with this process. The patient’s insurance is run before they begin the program and they know whether their insurance covers the service and what the out-of-pocket costs will be well in advance. OR If insurance is not accepted, the program accepts HSA or FSA funds to pay for the cost of treatment or will create and submit a superbill to bill out-of-network benefits on the client’s behalf to their insurance company.
3-Stars– The company accepts select major insurance providers or select insurance plans by state. The process for inputting your insurance is easy, but there is not a live person available to help you with the process. Insurance may be run prior to an appointment or afterward and out-of-pocket costs can come as a surprise. The program will accept either HSA or FSA funds to pay for treatment, OR they will create and submit a superbill for patients, but they will not allow both.
1-Star – The company does not accept insurance at all. The program does not accept HSA funds or FSA cards to pay for treatment. They offer a superbill, but patients must submit it to their insurance company themselves to bill their out-of-network benefits.
Reliability & Longevity
Our reliability and longevity score will be determined by several key factors. These key factors include:
- How long an online medication-assisted treatment program has been in operation.
- How many providers do they have within the program and how many states do they serve.
- Which of the top insurance providers the program accepts.
- How much growth has the company experienced over the past three years.
- Patient reviews on the quality of care.
We want to direct users toward online MAT programs that will continue to grow and won’t disappear or phase out after a patient signs up for treatment. It’s important to note that we also conduct updates to our addiction recovery company reviews, so a newer program may receive a higher score after it has proven its reliability and longevity over time.
Star-Ratings for Reliability & Longevity
5-Stars– The company has been in operation for more than five years and serves 50% of the US population. The program works with the top insurance companies in the states they provide care. The program has grown over the past three years and user reviews express very few complaints about the service. They are consistently meeting or exceeding the patient’s needs and expectations.
3-Stars– The company has been in operation for three years and can serve 30% of the US population. There are only a few major insurance companies the program accepts and they have been working with them for less than three years. The program is still growing and user reviews mention some complaints about the service. Patients’ needs and expectations are sometimes met.
1-Star – The company is brand new and has been active for one year and serves 10% of the US population. They do not work with any insurance companies and complaints or compliments are hard to find, as there are few user reviews available.
Care Team Credentials & Expertise
When a patient signs up for an online medication-assisted treatment program, several professionals should be included on their care team. For instance, an ideal company will provide
- Enrollment coordinators that are proficient in medical billing, insurance, and the onboarding process.
- Licensed prescribers with substantial experience in medication-assisted treatment.
- Licensed counselors or therapists with strong backgrounds in addiction recovery therapy.
- Supplemental support staff, such as recovery coaches or care coordinators, ensure that patients feel confident and comfortable with their treatment plans.
We also examine each company’s hiring processes to see the quality standards they have in place, what levels of education and experience they expect from staff, and if these qualifications are clear to patients before registration. Companies that are not transparent about their hiring practices, offer incomplete care teams or do not list licenses or certifications of their staff members will score lower in this category.
Star-Ratings for Care Team Credentials & Expertise
5-Stars– Patients are provided with a complete care team upon registration. Each professional holds a strong background in their area of expertise. The company’s hiring process is transparent, licenses and certifications of healthcare providers are clearly listed, and the quality of care is held to a high standard.
3-Stars– Patients are provided with a care team, but the background and expertise of the members are not clear. The company does not list certifications or licenses of their healthcare providers and does not share hiring practices, but will provide this information upon request.
1-Star– Patients are not provided with a consistent care team. They see different support staff for every appointment and the company refuses to provide information on their care team’s credentials and expertise.
As with any healthcare program, the quality of customer service is a significant rating factor. A company may be penalized in this category if it’s difficult to find customer support contact information or connect with a representative, or if it lacks channels of communication to contact support (e.g., only has email, no phone numbers listed).
We also take into consideration user reviews from trusted sources when scoring for customer service. We research and analyze positive and negative reviews that mention customer service and track when the company responds to complaints on trusted user review websites, as well as in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store when relevant. Companies that provide prompt and effective feedback and support will score higher in this category.
Star-Ratings for Customer Service
5-Stars– The company offers excellent customer service. There are multiple channels to communicate with a representative, including email, text, chat, and phone. Responses to issues and complaints are completed within two business days. There are very few, if any, customer complaints in reviews online. When problems are reported in reviews online, the company responds efficiently and effectively.
3-Stars– The company provides an average level of customer service. There are limited channels to communicate with a representative. Response time takes more than 3 business days. The company will sometimes respond to issues reported in reviews online.
1-Star– The company provides poor customer service. You can only reach a representative through one channel. Response time takes over a week and many issues are left unresolved. The company does not respond to reported issues in reviews online.
Privacy & HIPAA
Digital privacy, confidentiality, and HIPAA compliance are important to consider when choosing an online medication-assisted treatment program. An ideal program keeps the client’s account information, such as credit card numbers, email addresses, diagnosis, or other identifying data, private and protected by legal standards at all times. When ranking for this category, our objective is to promote companies that have transparent and ethical privacy and HIPAA policies, as well as data-sharing practices, and who consistently meet clients’ privacy and HIPAA expectations. Companies that are unclear about these policies and/or exhibit unethical actions regarding privacy, security, data sharing, or HIPAA will receive lower scores.
Star-Ratings for Privacy & HIPAA
5-Stars– Privacy and HIPAA policies are easy to find, clearly stated, and specific. The company is transparent about data-sharing practices and consistently meets clients’ expectations. There are no reports of security issues, such as personal information or credit card information being stolen or client information being sold to third parties. Patients are prompted to sign a HIPAA agreement acknowledging they are on a HIPAA-compliant platform during the sign-up process, and all HIPAA policies are adhered to.
3-Stars– Privacy and HIPAA policies, as well as data sharing practices, are difficult to find and/or generic and unspecific OR there have been some incidents of users facing security issues with private information. Patients are prompted to sign a HIPAA agreement only prior to their registration into the program, but it was not made clear during the sign-up process the platform uses HIPAA-compliant software.
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This content was last updated 03/06/2023 by the Choosing Therapy team.