Last week I was talking to a co-worker about the opioid epidemic. In truth, I forget why it was mentioned, but what struck me about the conversation was when I said opioids were still a serious issue, and my coworker replied, “really? That’s still a problem?” I wish it weren’t still an issue, yet here we are. Cases and overdose deaths are on the rise, and now fentanyl has entered the fray to make things much worse. With Covid and everything that has happened in the world in the past two years, it’s easy to get downtrodden by bleakness.
There is however hope, that is in the form of a new app developed at University of Virginia (UVA) Health. According to UVA Today, “The app, called “Heal Overcome Persist Endure,” or HOPE, aims to provide vital support to patients battling opioid-use disorder.” So, what does HOPE offer? One thing it offers users is an “easy and secure” way to connect to care providers. It also has an anonymous message board where users can share their experiences and find community with others who understand their situation. Care and community are two huge features that will help cultivate “hope” for anyone fighting their addiction alone.
An initial test of the app was done and found favorable results. UVA Today reports that “a small group of patients at high risk of disengaging from their treatment programs found that more than half were still receiving care six months later.” That’s a phenomenal number and was higher than what researchers anticipated. It was further found that those in the group that stopped seeing their care provider still used the app to stay connected with others they met.
Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, an infectious disease expert at UVA who helped develop the app, said that “we are excited to see that patients are using the app to stay engaged with recovery services.” She went on to mention that she and her team partnered with patients to design the app. She said that “this helped to create a welcoming, low-barrier portal to facilitate staying in care.”
For more information, read the following studies published in Biomedical Central and Science Direct. Both have results that proof this app can be a breakthrough. While the developers are pleased with the initial results, they’ve acknowledged the need to do additional testing with larger groups.
Dr. Jackie Hodges, another researcher on the team, says that “Our study suggests that patients possess the desire and motivation to stay engaged with providers and to remain in care…low-barrier models of care need to be expanded to support that desire and more effectively meet patients where they are.” Hodges makes a great point in emphasizing the need for low barrier care, considering finding quality care for an opioid addiction isn’t easy.
The app isn’t available to the public yet, but it’s showing promise. Let’s “hope” that this app can make a huge difference and one day be as readily available as services like Uber, for example.