March 26th, 2018 | ASAH Team
Individuals with substance use disorders usually get benefit from integration of mental health services into primary care settings. Such a system allows people to receive a variety of health care services at one place that substantially help them deal with co-occurring conditions often associated with substance abuse. Initiatives like telehealth, which uses technology to provide access to services for substance abuse treatments over long distance, have proved helpful in such a set-up.
Now, researchers from the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health have examined the applicability of mobile health (mHealth) technology aimed at integrating the addiction treatment into primary care through the use of a smartphone application called Seva, a Sanskrit word that means “selfless service.” The application provides several features that include a discussion board, tools for dealing with cravings and high-risk situations, among others. The findings of the study was published recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The study was undertaken at three federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), one each at Madison; Missoula, Montana; and the Bronx, New York. FQHCs are primary care facilities that are required to serve low-income populations for physical as well as behavioral/mental health. Clinicians were free to enroll any patient whom they felt would benefit from the program. The selected patients were given phones and data plans that were financed by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
For the study, a total of 268 patients were recruited from the three clinics. Self-reported results were assessed at baseline and at the end of six months over a 12-month period. The researchers were pleasantly surprised to find that the application was used extensively by the patients who formed a support system, which was quite unlike that of a primary care. Unfortunately, clinician use was comparatively low partly because Seva data could not be integrated into the electronic health register (EHR) and once federal funding ceased, the sites were unable to sustain the program.
“We found that patients used the application extensively and were able to support one another in a way that is unusual in primary care,” said Department of Family Medicine and Community Health assistant professor Andrew Quanbeck, who is also a co-investigator of the study.
The study found that Seva users were able to decrease their risky-drinking days by 44 percent and illicit drug-use days by 34 percent. Besides, they showed improved overall sobriety from both alcohol and drugs. They also had 49 percent fewer emergency department visits and 32 percent fewer hospitalizations. The researchers noted that mHealth technology could help improve primary care among patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) and possibly other chronic conditions.
Ideally, co-location of mental health and primary care services may also help reduce stigma associated with psychiatric disorders. The presence of co-morbidities not only degrades the quality of life of the patient, but also makes it more complicated in managing the conditions simultaneously. Therefore, such patients need their substance use as well as physical health problems addressed simultaneously. As the health care system continues to evolve in this direction and providers offer a wide array of services, it will reduce the need for standalone treatment facilities.
Drug addiction is a treatable disease. If you or someone you know needs help in recovering from SUD, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to get details about one of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online with one of our experts to get more information on a professionally managed substance abuse rehab in Arizona.