DEA's new rule is 'the scarlet telehealth prescription,' CMO says

Behavioral health is undergoing a broad awakening, with both leaders and the public increasingly seeing it as vital. The industry may fail to capture the full momentum of those tailwinds, however, if service bottlenecks and other key obstacles are not addressed.

Georgia Gaveras, DO, chief medical officer and co-founder of behavioral telehealth provider Talkiatry, spoke with Becker's about how she would solve some of the most critical issues in behavioral health.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: If you were the president or the U.S. healthcare czar, what are some things you would do for behavioral health?

Dr. Georgia Gaveras: First of all, if I ever go into politics, I'd have to definitely seek medical treatment. But the elephant in the room in telemedicine, especially in psychiatry, is the DEA's new proposed rules on prescribing.

I understand where the agency is coming from: They want to try to limit access to medications that could potentially be dangerous. But I don't know if the proposal necessarily does that. 

I think making somebody put a telemedicine stamp on a prescription already will stigmatize the patient because the person getting that prescription may say, "Hey, this person decided to go to a telemedicine provider instead of in person. Maybe there's something shady going on," and then we're supposedly trying to destigmatize people. 

It's literally like the scarlet telemedicine prescription, right? That's not fair to them. 

There's also this concept that being in person is safer and it's like, I feel like the emperor is naked. When the opioid epidemic happened, it happened in person. There were literally people going in and leaving with baggies of medications.

Also, we've had three years. … We knew that this was coming from the day that telemedicine was given the opportunity to flourish, and to now say, "The pandemic is ending. You have 30 days to comment on this rule." Are you kidding me? Why didn't you give us more time? Why didn't you start thinking about this years ago, to start crafting something that makes a little more sense? 

I really firmly believe breathing the same air as the patient does not mean you're providing better care. There's no accounting for the qualifications of the provider. There's no accounting for the quality of care. There's no accounting for what you actually do in the session other than you're physically in a room with them, and that just doesn't make any sense.

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