In the News: Aug 18–25

Chatbot Psychotherapy Reduces Postsurgery Opioid Use

A recent Newswise article discusses a research study’s findings on decreased opioid use rates (when compared to a control group) for patients who interacted with a chatbot for psychotherapy.

Although opioids are appropriate to use for pain management of acute injuries, like bone breaks and fractures, there is concern and risk that large prescriptions can lead to dependency and potential addiction. Researchers tested the effectiveness of intervention by setting up a randomized-controlled trial of 76 patients who went to a Level 1 Trauma Center for fractures that required a surgery to fix. The control and treatment groups received the same prescription of an opioid medication for pain, but the treatment group was also enrolled in a daily text messaging program. After the procedure, the treatment group received 2 messages daily for 14 days, with messages falling under one of 6 core principles: values, acceptance, present moment awareness, self-as-context, committed action and diffusion. The messages were crafted by a pain psychologist who specialized in acceptance and commitment therapy to direct the patient’s thoughts away from taking painkillers.

Overall, the patients who did not receive the messages took 41 opiates after their surgeries on average, while patients in the treatment group only took 26 opiates on average (37% difference). They also reported less pain overall, just 2 weeks after the procedure, demonstrating a low-cost, low-effort intervention that provides significant protection from opioid dependency. Findings from this study can benefit your organization and local communities by effectively curbing the increase in substance use disorders (SUD). To learn more about how the opioid epidemic/SUDs will impact your post-acute System of CARE, read the Sg2 Expert Insight The Opioid Epidemic: Preparing for the Long-Term Impact on Post-Acute Care.

Digital Mole Screening May Reduce Unnecessary Referrals

A recent MobiHealthNews article reported that Moletest (Scotland) Ltd, a medical technology company based in the UK, will offer a skin cancer screening test called nomela for use in primary care settings. The iPad-embedded technology is used to take photos of skin lesions, which are then processed through algorithms, resulting in exclusion of melanoma or recommendation for further investigation. Patients whose results do not exclude melanoma would subsequently be referred to specialists for additional diagnostic testing. Using nomela as part of the screening process could reduce unnecessary secondary (ie, specialist) referrals by 50%.

Competitors such as Miiskin have previously launched skin screening technology; however, a recent systematic review published in BMJ revealed the potential unreliability of algorithm-based smartphone apps in determining melanoma risk. Therefore, providers should be aware of the current limitations of mobile health technology and exercise clinical judgement when using these applications.

As the industry continues to shift toward virtual health and other mobile health applications, hospital systems will need to assess new technological innovations and strategize accordingly. For more information on mobile health applications and strategic planning, please read the Sg2 Technology Guide: Mobile Health Applications.

New Uber Partnership Enables Prescription Delivery at Home

A recent Modern Healthcare article detailed how Uber’s health care division, Uber Health, has partnered with NimbleRx, a startup that offers web- or app-based home medication delivery, to enable Uber drivers to deliver prescriptions.

As people strive to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be harder, if not impossible, to get to a pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. Meanwhile, postal service delays—even before today’s controversial United States Post Office operational changes—have made receiving prescriptions through the mail in a timely manner more difficult. The collaboration between Uber Health and NimbleRx will leverage Uber’s driver network to get prescriptions from local pharmacies to a patient’s home, providing an alternative to in-person pick-up and mail order prescription services. Currently, a pilot program will service the Seattle, WA, and Dallas, TX, areas, with expansion into other markets soon.

Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have been moving into the health care space—mostly offering free or affordable rides to nonemergency medical appointments—and Uber has hinted at getting involved in new segments, such as healthy meal delivery to food desert areas. As consumers become more tech-savvy and care shifts to be more value-based, health systems are increasingly looking to rideshare companies to help remove access barriers, manage costs and improve patient experience. Read the Sg2 FAQ With the Rise of Medical Rideshare Programs, Access to Care May Improve to learn how rideshare companies are influencing the medical transportation landscape.

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