Ria Health is a tech-enabled telehealth clinic that treats alcohol use disorder (AUD). Their team is singularly focused on helping people change their relationship with alcohol. As mentioned at this GDBHT2022 session, their evidence-based program combines science-backed methods alongside technology to improve accessibility and affordability. Ria Health has helped close to 5,000 people experience successful outcomes and is available in nearly all 50 states. We sat down with their team to get more specifics on their virtual alcohol use disorder solution.
About half of heavy drinkers concurrently suffer from anxiety and/or depression, a problem that alcohol makes worse. People often drink to self-medicate for these underlying anxiety or depression problems but are left with worse symptoms when they withdraw from alcohol. This pushes people to drink again, perhaps even more often or more per session, perpetuating the cycle.
Misusing alcohol can also result in real-life consequences that can negatively impact someone’s mental health. This includes relationships, work-life balance, and can even result in legal problems (such as DUIs). These stressors can impact social settings and experiences, driving people to isolation, worsening a person’s mental health, resulting in anxiety and depression.
Significantly reducing, or stopping, alcohol consumption leads to an overall better mood and an improvement in levels of anxiety. Some patients will also benefit from counseling and/or an evaluation for anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications.
Ria Health’s medical staff includes both physicians and nurse practitioners that conduct a thorough initial assessment to tailor an individualized program for each Ria Health member. Our program combines both counseling as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) which, evidence shows, results in the best outcomes for those struggling with AUD.
Our initial medication assessment takes into account an individual’s unique medical and psychiatric history as well as a member’s own goals. We’re not an abstinence-only program and understand that members may only want to reduce their drinking and overall consumption. We help align on a goal that is likely to result in a member sticking with the program and achieving the goal they want.
Depending on the individual’s pattern of drinking, our team members will prescribe one of several medications available for those struggling with AUD. Different medication is best suited depending on whether a member wants to abstain from alcohol or is looking to reduce consumption.
This includes medicine that can reduce cravings (Naltrexone, Topiraamate, Baclofen), treat symptoms related to withdrawal symptoms, anxiety issues, and lack of sleep (Gabapentin), as well as assist in maintaining abstinence (Acamprosate).
On the counseling side, patients are able to match with a coach of their choice who helps them develop goals as part of a collaborative approach to treatment. These coaches and counselors provide ongoing accessible care that’s tailored and suited for a patients’ schedule to maximize support and availability. Depending on the member, coaches will pull from a myriad of tools, techniques, and options such as 1-1 counseling, workbooks, and group therapy that is aligned with a member’s preferred treatment and learning style.
AUD isn’t just a personal problem — it’s a problem that can affect a person’s employment and work environment as well. Employers also experience negative consequences as a result of an employee with AUD issues. Productivity, work satisfaction, presenteeism, and absenteeism are all issues that can worsen over time without AUD treatment.
By helping employees become aware of their relationship with alcohol, an employee can begin the work towards addressing AUD which starts with an understanding of how alcohol can affect them across interpersonal relationships, home, and work life. When AUD is properly managed in the workplace, employers can save an average of $8,500 per employee per year.
Ria Health helps employers give a treatment program that empowers employees to manage their AUD, resulting in increased productivity and performance while decreasing healthcare costs, bringing savings to both the employer and employees.
By offering a focused AUD program, as opposed to a one-size fits all approach, employers can expect better engagement, adoption, and overall program success. We know that employees are specifically looking for specialty providers that offer more accessible options. Ria Health’s telehealth-based program is much less disruptive to employees' lives and doesn’t require a major uproot compared to a residential treatment facility or an IOP/PHP.
In many cases, the employee doesn’t even need to take time off of work to obtain treatment. The lack of disruption makes program adoption much easier and reduces the burden on the employer of having to cover for an employee who may be taking an extended period of time away.
Lastly, Ria Health is vastly more affordable compared to traditional inpatient programs — costing just a quarter as much. These savings are passed on to both the employers and employees.