Progress in rural treatment options could have wide benefits for other underserved populations. But many challenges remain.

Some of the communities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic are in rural America. However, many of those same communities lack access to comprehensive treatment.

To address the epidemic’s increasing reach, the White House declared a public health emergency on Oct. 26. The administration outlined a need to expand treatment in rural communities, most notably by making telemedicine more readily available. Telemedicine, also referred to as telehealth, aims to improve treatment access by allowing people to consult their provider remotely – for example, by using videoconferencing.

As a researcher of opioid treatment in Michigan, I’m excited to see the call for greater availability of telemedicine as a way to help rural communities. However, telemedicine has important limitations that need to be considered.