There’s an App for That! Using Technology in Addiction Prevention and Treatment

There’s an app for just about everything, so it’s no surprise addiction medicine has its own cutting-edge technology to improve patient care. Symposium 1, “There’s an App for That! Using Technology in Addiction Prevention and Treatment,” will highlight that technology from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm Friday in Orange Ballroom A, Lower Level.

During the symposium, four professionals will spotlight new technology benefitting patients, said the session’s co-organizer, Christina Delos Reyes, MD, ABAM Diplomate. Dr. Delos Reyes is Program Director for Addiction Psychiatry at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.

“This session will inspire attendees to think of new ways to reach and treat patients in the digital age,” Dr. Delos Reyes said. “I hope they will share this cutting-edge research with funders, policymakers, and health system leaders so that more people with addiction will have access to evidence-based treatments.”

One of those apps is Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology for patient monitoring and intervention in clinical research contexts. Gail Rose, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont and Associate Director of the Health Behavior Research Center, Burlington, where she conducts NIH-sponsored clinical research on the secondary prevention, treatment, and relapse prevention of alcoholism. For the past 15 years, her research group has specialized in adapting IVR technology.

Increasing demands on primary care physicians means they have less time to address preventive behavioral health concerns. Self-directed, electronic means of educating patients are increasingly embraced by providers. In response to this need, Dr. Rose’s team is conducting a randomized controlled trial of a standalone IVR for patients seeking routine primary health care that screens for behavioral health concerns and provides brief intervention for heavy drinkers. In a pilot study, IVR demonstrated patient acceptability and positive effects on patient motivation to change drinking habits and consult their physicians.

Jennifer McNeely, MD, MS, ABAM Diplomate, New York University School of Medicine, will provide attendees with a look at the four-item Substance Use Brief Screen (SUBS), a brief assessment tool that is an audio computer-assisted, self-interview version of the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ACASI ASSIST). Used to identify the unhealthy use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs, the tool allows patients to complete screening questions prior to their medical visits. The questions can be answered in the waiting room or from home using a patient portal into the electronic health record, easing barriers to implementation of substance use screening and assessment in medical settings.

Lisa Marsch, PhD, will spotlight the Therapeutic Education System app, a Web-based behavior therapy for substance use disorders that can enhance treatment outcomes of typical substance abuse treatment settings. It also can increase access to evidence-based behavioral treatment. The technology was born out of years of NIH-supported experimental research. Dr. Marsch is Director of the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health and Director at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

David H. Gustafson, PhD, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Preventive Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will discuss a randomized clinical trial using A-CHESS, a smartphone app to support recovery from alcoholism. A-CHESS has both static content, such as audio-guided relaxation, and interactive features. It will issue a GPS-based alert if a patient nears a high-risk location, such as a bar, by asking the patient if he or she wants to be there.

“Using technology can be very successful in treating addiction and substance use disorders. Research clearly demonstrates the feasibility, accessibility, and efficacy of the interventions,” Dr. Delos Reyes said. “For patients who want to use non-traditional methods, or who want to complete addiction screening and intervention in the privacy of their own homes, using a phone or computer does increase access and responsiveness.”