[This article is based on Andrew Isham’s research presented at the 2011 Medicine 2.0 Congress. Submissions for the 2012 iMedicalApps & Medicine 2.0 mHealth Research Award are being accepted until March 7.]

by: Andrew Isham, MS

The unwelcome truth about substance abuse is that most people who successfully complete inpatient treatment will eventually relapse. Here at the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS) our mission is to develop innovative health systems to optimize individuals’ health behaviors, quality of life, and access to services. What we realized is that addiction relapse is often preceded by stressful incidents – but that too often these were addressable only retrospectively.

The emerging ubiquity of mobile technologies presented an unprecedented opportunity to detect and potentially access key recovery moments as they occurred. Thus, we developed a mobile application that allows recovering addicts to track their progress, recall their own motivational story in moments of crisis, communicate almost near instantly with counselors and their support team while taking advantage of ubiquitous smart phone capabilities such as GPS and video chat.

Our preliminary results, presented at the Medicine 2.0 conference in September, demonstrated that the application may help to avoid relapse for people in recovery. It is now being tested in a randomized clinical trial.
Learn more about our system after the jump.

Submissions for the iMedicalApps & Medicine 2.0 mHealth Research Award are being accepted until March 7. Details are here

A-CHESS (Addiction – Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System) was designed with contributions from patients, family members, treatment providers, technology experts, and primary care providers. The current version of A-CHESS is on the Android platform and includes a number of features intended to predict, detect, and prevent relapse. Key features include:

  • connection with a support team (other ACHESS users)
  • photo sharing, discussion group and healthy event planning
  • use of GPS to detect when user is near a high-risk location (for example, a liquor store)
  • video chat with counselor or discussion group

[Ed. be sure to check out the video to see just how the features work together]

The most immediate way to engage with the app is via the Panic Button. When pushed, a text message is sent to supportive others prompting an assistive response. While the user waits for a human response, they are directed to other A-CHESS features that they can use immediately, like guided relaxation, discussion board, or a recording of their own recovery motivational story.

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If A-CHESS detects, via GPS location, that a user is in a high-risk location (bar, liquor store, etc.), their cellphone will ring and they will receive a tailored set of recommended coping strategies.

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Some A-CHESS features are designed to support a proactive approach the recovery. “Events” enables a user to find nearby recovery-friendly activities and meetings. They can get directions, invite other A-CHESS users, and rate and review events, which are populated by both counselors and the users themselves.

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