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How to Build an Effective Successful Addiction Treatment App for Inpatient and Outpatient Use

By Nick Epson on September 2, 2021

One of the many effects COVID-19 had on the world was driving the virtualization of many services, a benefit we’re beginning to see in addiction treatment apps. With lockdowns and restrictions forcing a work-from-home lifestyle while businesses closed, other solutions had to be pioneered. Falling within this proverbial basket of alternative solutions to help keep routines consistent is the switch many made to telehealth options. Telehealth is, by no means, a new idea as it has been in use now for many years, but it became exponentially more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just as people turned to telehealth for routine medical care, mental health solutions were needed for many to avoid the negative consequences of avoidance; people looked for a way to receive the same care virtually. According to Healthcare Dive’s analysis of the LexisNexis 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report, the report showed a:

  • 6,500% increase in telehealth claims for behavioral health services
  • 3,000% increase in telehealth visits for anxiety
  • 2,500% increase in telehealth visits for depression
  • 1,400% increase in substance abuse care in telehealth

There is a clear need for mental health alternatives to traditional in-person appointments, as addiction treatment apps can help connect patients with on-demand services that . Fortunately, there are smartphone applications that endeavor to address this demand and provide support in outpatient or inpatient settings. With the delivery of mobile applications, these tools extend beyond just the traditional treatment.

One such example is the Pear Therapeutics app, Pear reSET, approved by the FDA in 2017 to help treat substance use disorders. Pear reSET is an example of digital therapy, consisting of a 12-week, self-paced program available for those over 17 years old with a prescription from a clinician. The results of the clinical trial were outstanding. It “found that the app significantly improved treatment outcomes, including higher rates of abstinence—40.3% compared to 17.6% among those who did not use the app.”

The system, which uses a proprietary system called eFormulations, has also been extended to Serious Mental Illness, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder. Following the study, Pear Therapeutics shared a quote from Dror Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Director of the mHealth for Mental Health Program at Dartmouth College, who stated: “This study debunks the concern that patients who are not clinically stable are not capable of using mobile interventions.”

Treatment-focused mental health and addiction apps, like Pear reSET, are new digital ventures created by entrepreneurs aiming to aid affected individuals and compete in the market with private addiction recovery facilities and hospitals. Established brands in the private addiction recovery facilities and hospital market are missing a significant opportunity to leverage that brand and physician expertise in mobile app creation. There is a clear demand for them, and entrepreneurs are already making space for themselves there.

With a wealth of information supporting the use of addiction treatment apps in conjunction with clinical solutions as an effective strategy for complete treatment, in both outpatient and inpatient settings, as well as the growing need for alternative solutions for mental health, the private addiction recovery facilities and hospitals of today should look into other ways to continue this momentum.

Connection to other people is one great way to immerse them in a task and is why team exercises work so well is because you help each other stay accountable. One example of an app that implements this well is Nomo – Sobriety Clocks. This addiction app will help you track sobriety while also giving you the option to share that information with a support group of your friends and family. This way, you are never alone, as you can message those people through the app if feeling emotionally compromised.

One of the best ways to engage people and immerse them in a process is to gamify them. It works because people become invested in the game and often do not notice the treatment happening but reap the rewards. Games are a form of discussion happening between characters, but also between the game and the player.

One example of this is the app, My New Leaf. The game centers around growing a tree through daily check-ins that gain you rewards and skills, creating a goal-oriented treatment that focuses on continued use. An alternative to this example is SoberTool, which sends daily motivation and rewards the user as they hit new milestones in their sobriety journey. It also offers a way to work through triggers and thoughts of relapse, asking the user questions and guides them through uplifting messages to inspire them to stay sober. The key is to keep patients engaged with their treatment as those that want to get better have better outcomes.

Mental health is a critical part of every person’s life, and in difficult times, like those during the lockdown, it is important to have an outlet that helps. As this field evolves and grows over the coming years, it will help many people by engaging them in their treatment.