According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioid overdoses resulted in more than 64,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016. This national health crisis was the motivation behind the “Opioid Challenge” launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This competition has a top prize of $50,000, and contestants are asked to “create technology enabled tools to help support and connect individuals affected by opioid addiction?”

97 entries were received, from which five semi-finalists were chosen. One of the semi-finalists is Resilience IQ (ResQ) from a Brooklyn-based company, Data Cubed. This is a smartphone app that uses gamification to help patients recovering from opioid addiction. The app helps engage an individual’s support network when the person is most vulnerable to relapse. The game helps collect data about the person’s state of mind and other factors, using fun activities to encourage patient engagement and retention. The app also provides encouragement and suggestions for behavioral changes.

The next phase of the Challenge will be at the annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference, where three of the semi-finalists will be chosen to make a live pitch in front of the program judges. In addition to being an interesting way to encourage innovation, the Challenge also demonstrates clearly that smartphone apps and other digital health programs are taking on significant roles in the behavioral and medical treatment of patients.