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article imageApp helps doctors screen for opioid dependency

By Tim Sandle     May 31, 2018 in Health
The problems of opioid dependency have been widely reported and the problem is affecting many high-income nations. To overcome the challenges faced by the medical community, a new digital health solution is proposed.
One of the motivators for the digital health initiative is because of the specialist training that is required by medical professionals. Here, many doctors and other healthcare providers are not adequately trained in screening patients and with providing the appropriate advice to help these patients to obtain the most appropriate treatment.
This has led to a new innovation coming from the company Northwell Health, who are based in New York. The company has teamed-up with the non-profit body Center on Addiction. This partnership has led to the development and release of a new health app.
The health app is aimed at healthcare providers, and it guides the health professional through a series of steps when assessing a person with an opioid addiction, including the appropriate questions to ask. This is an example of the digital transformation of healthcare.
In the U.S., a rise in prescriptions for opioid medications has led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. In time, it became evident that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. The extent of the problem led to U.S. Department for Health and Human Services to declare, in 2017, a public health emergency. The Agency subsequently developed a five-point strategy to address the issue. However, a widespread problem remains, with every day, more than 115 people in the U.S. dying after overdosing on opioids.
The new app from the partners is called the “Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment” app. The app is not aimed for patients; it is a tool for medical professionals. The app has been designed for use on tablet devices.
The format is a standardised set of short answer questions; these questions can be pitched to patients to help to identify potentially problematic patterns. As well as opioids, the questions can help with the assessment of other drug or alcohol misuse.
According to Pharmaceutical Phorum, where the answers identify a moderate or high level of risk (in terms of health or social problems) linked to substance use, the app then takes the medial professional through some suggestions on how to speak to patients about their need change lifestyles. This is through positive reinforcing behavior.
Development of the app is described in the journal Addiction, in the paper “Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT): rationale, program overview and cross-site evaluation.”
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