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The biggest problem facing this population is that a huge treatment gap exists; approximately 89 percent of these patients are not receiving treatment. Many people live far from treatment facilities or say they can’t afford to pay for professional help. Others fear that admitting and receiving treatment will cause a negative reaction from the friends and relatives and may also have an unfavorable impact on their jobs. There are also legal reasons, with people worried about the loss of custody of a child.
But here’s where technology can make a huge difference. Sober Peer’s new mobile health plat-form uses artificial intelligence to assess, predict and prescribe treatment solutions as part of a low-cost, capitated fee model. Its mobile app connects providers to reach people and helps them manage their treatment online – a huge benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic. This breakthrough will enable thousands of Americans to get help and produce better outcomes for patients with life-controlling substance use disorders.
In an interview with CIO Applications, Ed DeShields, founder and chief executive officer of Sober Peer, shares with us his thoughts on the value of his solution to the healthcare sector and the world as a whole.
Please provide an outline of the current state of available rehabilitation treatment op-tions? Are there specific challenges that exist in this space when it comes to patient care and recovery?
It is widely known that substance use treatment programs often require multiple rounds of specialty treatment and ongoing recovery support services. Even after a lengthy time in rehabilitation, many people often relapse once they finish their treatment. Staying connected with patients in post treatment is almost impossible in a traditional clinical workflow.
There is also a substantial shortage of qualified clinicians to treat substance use. Data indicate that 77 percent of US counties had a shortage of psychiatrists who could prescribe medication and that one in five had an unmet need for psychologists, advanced practice psychiatric nurses, social workers and licensed professional counselors.
But that can change with our mobile app, which provides digital access to manage treatment for everyone. For medical professionals treating these patients, mobile devices will enable them to access patient data, track current treatments, behavior, reactions, and manage case-loads from anywhere. More importantly, our Sober Peer Behavioral Rating analytically scores thousands of realtime “sober signals” from a mobile device to therapists.
“Sober Peer LLC, socially-connected platform engages people who do not typically seek treatment, offering access to a local 24-hour behavior support.” Would you like to shed some light reflecting on this statement and walk us through the simulation features of your system? Tell us more about the solution’s functionality and involved benefits?
Our technology platform and mobile app deliver the science behind the behavior of persons who practice risky drug and alcohol use. We enable counselors and healthcare professionals to see patterns of behavior related to addiction and score that behavior. This information allows them to digitally interrupt negative behavior and simulate the best next step in the recovery process while documenting outcome effectiveness mathematically. Our platform follows three unique concepts that can transform addiction recovery:
We Use Artificial Intelligence to Analyze Patient Data.
Our technology can track approximately up to 500 pieces of behavioral data daily for each pa-tient. A substance use counselor or healthcare provider can use this information to find issues hidden by the patient, allowing for deeper insight that will lead to a faster and lasting recovery. Behavior is broken down into fifteen cognitive categories, correlated as patterns, scored and predicted.
Leverages the Universal Use of Smart Phones.
People with substance use issues can engage with their healthcare professional and others through a smart phone app.
By identifying negative patterns of behavior with AI, we can help simulate which methods of treatment will best improve a person’s life. I’m confident it will encourage many people with live-controlling use of drugs and alcohol to take their first step toward sobriety
Makes Professional Help Affordable and Accessible.
This idea is critical in reaching the 89 percent of substance users who don’t seek treatment.
Using the mobile app, recovering substance abusers can connect 24/7 to find and exchange in-formation with certified peer coaches, licensed counselors and other mental health and sub-stance abuse providers. And because more than 20 million people in the US with drug and alco-hol issues don’t seek treatment, the app gives them access to the help they need.
How was the solution developed, and what does it mean to healthcare providers and professionals?
Healthcare professionals and counselors want to know if technology can help them reach more people in need and provide better treatment. They also want independent verification that the technology platform is viable. Consequently, we rigorously tested our ideas and platform to en-sure it delivers on the promise to bring the science of simulation to better understand client behavior associated with improved treatment.
The development of our platform began in 2018 followed by beta testing in 2019. A pilot de-ployment included 47 addiction recovery centers with more than 1,400 patients in 40 states. Early responses from substance use coaches and counselors show that the platform helped counselors identify core issues faster and speed-up the recovery process.
How does the platform work?
After securing the client’s permission, our mobile app collects up to 500 digital “Sober Signals“ per day for each patient. These signals are gathered through the patient’s interactions with the app through activities such as reporting their mood, taking surveys, making posts or comments, chatting with their counselor, completing a telehealth session, managing their trigger places, and other activities.
These Sober Signals are shared in real-time and are continuously analyzed by an Artificial Intel-ligence rating where it is able to assess, measure, predict and prescribe the best next steps for treatment. Sober Peer’s Behavioral Rating translates mountains of data into clear patterns of behavior that encourage better advice, treatment plans, and outcomes.
This information provides their coaches and counselors with a baseline of information to assess each patient’s unique treatment needs. But the “game changer” is Sober Peer’s approach of letting the client self-report data using a mobile device versus a traditional question-and-answer session with a counselor in a clinical setting. Patient responses are summarized on a personal dashboard where clinicians see the entire picture quickly and get simulation insights on what behavioral patterns should be explored.
As the patient interacts with the platform a Sober Peer Behavioral Rating is applied. Sober Peer then tracks their progress real time and continuously.
What are some insights, expertise and experience Sober Peer brings to the table to en-hance substance use recovery services and how have your clients benefitted from your simulation offerings?
Counselors traditionally begin their treatment by asking patients many questions in a face-to-face episodic setting. But until trust can be established, a person with a substance use disorder doesn’t always answer honestly. We have worked with clinicians who find our solutions ex-tremely valuable in assessing the underlying cognitive behavioral issues that reinforce the use of life controlling issues like substance use. It identified problems a patient may never admit in a face-to-face conversation, especially during the first months of treatment.
For example, one patient scored poorly on our assessment measuring the quality of mental health. The patient felt low self-esteem; he was overweight and often made up stories about his accomplishments. Using Sober Peer, he was able to uncover the key cognitive issues to design a detailed treatment plan.
Can you shed some light on your product’s roadmap in the immediate future?
We are working closely with our customers to expand Sober Peer to about 260 recovery facili-ties throughout the U.S. and Canada this year who have begun pre-planning their conversion to Sober Peer. Over the next two years we hope to put hope with reach to every address in the U.S. In 2021, we will enter Europe, Australia. Eurasia and Africa where our customers currently serve 800 treatment locations in 125 countries. So, we’ve got a robust schedule ahead.
In addition, we’re are beginning pilots with state governments and public health officials in sev-eral states domestically to demonstrate how our platform improves treatment. Governmental agencies have lost billions of dollars in revenues due to the COVID-19 crisis, yet they still need to fund critical agencies that provide or facilitate treatment. Sober Peer, using digital simulation technology, will help them reach more people at much lower costs while also improving outcomes. More importantly care can now be expanded to provide pre-treatment and post-treatment continuously.
Finally, we are communicating with 31,000 licensed professionals to recruit them to join the Sober Peer provider network and offering free behavioral training for peer and recovery coach-es. Our goal is to train up to 6,000 professionals and add them to the critical workforce we need to conquer substance use.