The fight against the persistent opioid epidemic requires a wide range and variety of efforts and tools. Anything that can help recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse deserves attention. We’ve written about Innovative Health Solution’s NSS-2 Bridge wearable to reduce withdrawal pain, tests at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of ingestible biosensors that detect opioids, and even a collaborative effort of public and private entities in Ohio working on wearable to support withdrawal.
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine and Epharmix recently released results of a study that demonstrated the potential use of automated text messages to reduce the number relapses. Epharmix is a St. Louis-based mobile tech company that focuses on chronic condition management apps. The company also has apps to help manage diabetes, depression, and hypertension. The addict support program works in two ways. Patients under treatment for opioid addition receive text messages and phone calls checking in to ask how things are going and if they’re having issues. There’s also a panic button that patients can use to call for help. A preliminary study report published in The New England Journal of Medicine Group‘s Catalyst showed a 19% cost savings in reduced staff time for each patient who stuck with the study for three months: in this case about 60% of the 21 who started with the program. In general, the patients reacted positively to the program and case managers expressed appreciation for having a good sense of how their patients were doing.
It’s early days yet in this study, which may not be the right choice for some patients. Agencies find their limited resources spread thin when dealing with the growing opioid crisis. The potential for positive ROI with relatively low-cost mobile-enabled connections between caregivers and patients sounds like a win.