Transition to telehealth: Challenges and benefits of conducting group-based smoking and alcohol treatment virtually

Contemp Clin Trials. 2022 Mar;114:106689. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2022.106689. Epub 2022 Jan 24.


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many research and clinical teams have transitioned their projects to a remote-based format, weighing the pros and cons of making such a potentially disruptive decision. One key aspect of this decision is related to the patient population, with underserved populations possibly benefiting from the increased reach of telehealth, while also encountering technology barriers that may limit accessibility. Early in the pandemic, our team shifted a group-based, smoking cessation and alcohol modification treatment trial to a remote-based format. Our population included individuals who concurrently wanted to quit smoking and modify their alcohol use. This paper describes technical and logistical considerations of transitioning from in-person to remote-based delivery for group-based treatment, including the impact upon study staff, group facilitators, participants, and the institution. Remotely-delivered group treatment may be valuable not only in response to pandemic-related restrictions, but it may also offer an alternative treatment-delivery modality with independent benefits in terms of population reach, costs, and pragmatics for clients, staff, and institutions.

Keywords: COVID-19; Group-based treatment; Low socioeconomic status; Remotely-delivered treatment; Substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Telemedicine* / methods
  • Tobacco Smoking