Breaking News
March 22, 2019 - Less invasive valve replacement can be safe and effective alternative for healthier patients
March 22, 2019 - Aphasia research reveals new, complex interactions between thought and language
March 22, 2019 - Artificial neural networks can predict how different areas in the brain respond to words
March 22, 2019 - Age-related changes to gut microbiome have adverse impact on vascular health, study shows
March 22, 2019 - Isolated seniors chat online to prevent cognitive decline
March 22, 2019 - Karyopharm Announces FDA Extension of Review Period for Selinexor New Drug Application
March 22, 2019 - Eruptive xanthomatosis
March 22, 2019 - Cause of vascular disease in kidney failure reversed in animal model
March 22, 2019 - Researchers discover possible new therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer
March 22, 2019 - Ebola spreads to second largest city in DRC
March 22, 2019 - Perivascular spaces contribute to worse cognitive health in older adults
March 22, 2019 - Adolescent daily users more likely to obtain electronic cigarettes from commercial sources
March 22, 2019 - FDA Approves Genentech’s Tecentriq in Combination With Chemotherapy for the Initial Treatment of Adults With Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer
March 22, 2019 - Diabetes myths and facts: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
March 22, 2019 - TGen and ABL pursue global rollout of advanced TB test
March 22, 2019 - Traffic light labels influence people to choose healthier and more sustainable meals
March 22, 2019 - Alzheimer’s patients using antiepileptic drugs have twice the risk of pneumonia, study shows
March 22, 2019 - Skin diseases may be more prevalent than previously thought
March 22, 2019 - Overall rates of death from breast cancer are falling across the EU
March 22, 2019 - Novel plasmid could hold key to control of mosquito-borne illness
March 22, 2019 - Female Emergency Physicians Paid Less Than Males
March 22, 2019 - Estimated average glucose (eAG): MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
March 22, 2019 - Experimental drug could be new option for type 2 diabetes
March 22, 2019 - Five Things To Know About The Electronic Health Records Mess
March 22, 2019 - TMJ disorders could be treated with tissue-engineered implants after successful animal study
March 22, 2019 - Team-based approach is key to successful care of pregnant women with heart failure
March 22, 2019 - Study identifies gene variant associated with accelerated cellular aging
March 21, 2019 - Salk scientists show how background noise from neurons can interrupt focused attention
March 21, 2019 - New class of drugs could help treat patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer
March 21, 2019 - Tecentriq Approved for Small Cell Lung Cancer
March 21, 2019 - Adipocyte glucocorticoid receptors play a role in developing steroid diabetes
March 21, 2019 - Climate change can affect nutrient content of crops, harming human health
March 21, 2019 - Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health’ Surprise! Fixing Surprise Medical Bills Is Harder Than it Looks
March 21, 2019 - Chemistry researchers patent new method for making anti-leukemia compounds
March 21, 2019 - UIC scientists identify hidden proteins in bacteria
March 21, 2019 - New Australian drug trial achieves remarkable results in patients with acute myeloid leukemia
March 21, 2019 - Females live longer when they have help raising offspring
March 21, 2019 - How did orthodontists sell orthodontics?
March 21, 2019 - In the Spotlight: From dietitian to physician assistant student
March 21, 2019 - The CRISPR Revolution: What You Need to Know
March 21, 2019 - FDA Chief Calls For Stricter Scrutiny Of Electronic Health Records
March 21, 2019 - Combined glucocorticoid and antioxidant therapy could benefit premature babies
March 21, 2019 - Low levels of certain eye proteins could serve as predictor for Alzheimer’s
March 21, 2019 - Post-traumatic holocaust survivors transmit negative views on aging to offspring
March 21, 2019 - City of Hope receives $7.5 million in grant awards to study cutaneous T cell lymphoma
March 21, 2019 - New video game-led training device helps stroke survivors regain arm mobility
March 21, 2019 - Compounds in coffee could slow prostate cancer growth
March 21, 2019 - New mobile DNA element in Wolbachia may contribute to improved disease control strategies
March 21, 2019 - Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Bermekimab Shows Potential New Standard of Care for Treatment of Hidradenitis Suppurativa, Including Significant Pain Reduction without Antibiotics
March 21, 2019 - More than one-third of patients risk major bleeding by doubling up on blood thinners
March 21, 2019 - A skeptical look at popular diets: Thumbs up for Mediterranean
March 21, 2019 - PTSD After Cardiac Arrest Predicts More Heart Trouble
March 21, 2019 - Role of immunological imprinting in elicitation of new antibodies
March 21, 2019 - Breast cancer relapse predictor tool may soon be a reality
March 21, 2019 - New computer program developed by TGen lights up cancer-causing genetic mutations
March 21, 2019 - FDA warns two breast implant makers for failure to comply with post-approval study requirements
March 21, 2019 - Butler Hospital receives COBRE grant to enhance research on neuropsychiatric illnesses
March 21, 2019 - Majority of osteoporosis clinical practice guidelines ignore patients’ voices
March 21, 2019 - Generic messages don’t help patients to lose weight
March 21, 2019 - Eisai and Imbrium Therapeutics Announce U.S. FDA Filing Acceptance of New Drug Application for Lemborexant for the Treatment of Insomnia
March 21, 2019 - Two-drug combos using popular calcium channel blocker show superiority in lowering BP
March 21, 2019 - Q BioMed and Mannin Research collaborate with McMaster University to develop GDF15 biomarker glaucoma diagnostic kit
March 21, 2019 - First-in-human pilot study shows positive results for ‘bacteria-phobic’ catheter
March 21, 2019 - Itamar Medical launches next-generation WatchPAT system for home sleep apnea testing
March 21, 2019 - Study estimates health and economic impacts of healthy food prescriptions
March 21, 2019 - Detecting fungal disease in crops with multispectral imaging system
March 21, 2019 - MIT announces creation of the Alana Down Syndrome Center
March 21, 2019 - Next-generation LVAD device clinically superior, safer for heart failure patients
March 21, 2019 - Allergan Announces FDA Approval of Avycaz (ceftazidime and avibactam) for Pediatric Patients
March 21, 2019 - Mutations in noncoding genes could play big role in regulating cancer, study finds
March 21, 2019 - A medical student’s thoughts on Match Day
March 21, 2019 - Are eggs good or bad for you?
March 21, 2019 - New analysis reveals precision oncology insights for colorectal cancer
March 21, 2019 - Pollutants appear to weaken immune system and increase pathogen virulence
March 21, 2019 - Researchers develop and validate scale for rating severity of mononucleosis
March 21, 2019 - Scientists identify generation of key immune response in mice on introducing solid food
March 21, 2019 - New nanomaterial could restore internal structure of damaged bones
March 21, 2019 - Selective destruction of prostate tumor as effective as complete prostate removal
March 21, 2019 - 2011 to 2015 Saw Increase in Psychiatric ED Visits for Youth
March 21, 2019 - Tapeworm drug targets common vulnerability in tumor cells
Smartphone app supports those struggling with opioids

Smartphone app supports those struggling with opioids

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Emily Lindemer and her team created the “Hey, Charlie” app for recovering addicts. As users go about their day, if they approach a place they have signified as risk-related, the app sends a notification: “Hey, I know you’re near a risky area. You can do this.” Credit: Lillie Paquette

In the spring of 2016, while Emily Lindemer was working toward her Ph.D. at MIT, she was also struggling with something closer to home: watching someone she knew well fall in and out of recovery from opioid addiction.

Like many people in recovery, Lindemer’s friend had his ups and downs. There were promising periods of sobriety followed by relapses into old habits. As the months went by, Lindemer began to see patterns.

For example, when he lost his driver’s license—a common occurrence for people struggling with substance abuse who have run-ins with police—he had to call his friends to give him rides to work. If the friends he called for a lift were also people he used drugs with, Lindemer says, he’d relapse within a week.

“His relapses were predictable almost to a T, just based on the people he was associating with—who he was talking to, calling, texting, and hanging out with,” she says.

This realization turned out to be an inspiration. What if, she thought, there was a way to provide gentle moments of pause to people struggling with substance-abuse disorders. And what if those reminders could come through a smartphone application that monitors users’ contacts, location, and behaviors—and, using the information it gathers, offers encouragement when they are communicating with risky people or when they’re near a trigger area?

Lindemer, then a Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, formed a team, which started thinking through the basics of what would become an app called “Hey, Charlie.” She knew of dozens of existing apps to help people in recovery. Some, like “MySoberLife,” offer simple lifestyle tracking services. Others, like “reSET,” are prescription-only and share patients’ responses to questionnaires with doctors. But none addressed the primary trigger Lindemer saw for relapses: social contacts.

Lindemer and her team participated in MIT Hacking Medicine, a worldwide event in which people have a short time to come up with solutions to health care-related problems. They emerged from that experience with sharper ideas, and with a clear sense that they would need funding and more advice. So Lindemer applied to the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, a program that provides seed funding for students’ ideas. The team received $25,000 and was connected to mentors with relevant experience. Lindemer and her team streamlined the application and designed a business model, and recently they ran a successful usability pilot.

The “Hey, Charlie” app works on several levels. When someone downloads it, it prompts them to enter general information about a few of their contacts, including questions that might prove helpful on the road to recovery, for example: “How often does this person express doubt about your ability to continue your recovery process?”

“They are objective questions, not subjective, and they aren’t stigmatizing,” Lindemer says. “They do not ask the person in recovery to incriminate anybody. We try to figure out things like, is this a person that even knows that you are struggling with substance abuse disorder? Is this a person who contributes to stress levels in your life? Or is this the type of person who encourages your sobriety?”

The app also asks new users for a unique set of spatial information. Where are the areas of their city or region that could be triggers for users—locations where they bought drugs, or where their friends who use drugs are living? The app’s users identify a particular point and then drag a wider circle depending on the size of the area. As they users go about their day, if they approach a place they have identified as risk-related, the app sends a notification: “Hey, I know you’re near a risky area. You can do this.”

Even when users aren’t engaged with the app, “Hey, Charlie” collects data on their activity and interactions—very, very securely, says Lindemer.

“Anything that gets sent into the cloud for ‘Hey, Charlie’ is encrypted,” she says. “What we get is anonymized communication data. So we might know this user is talking to five unique risky people, but we have no idea who those risky people are, what their phone numbers are, or anything. It’s not the specific people and places that are necessarily important. It is the volume of communication with people that are helpful versus unhelpful.”

Christopher Shanaha, the director of “Hey, Charlie’s” recent usability pilot at Boston Medical Center and Mattapan Community Center says the app’s nudges can help patients stay engaged with their recovery when they’re outside of the clinic.

“As clinicians we only see patients in the clinic 15 or 20 minutes a week, and yet patients have to live 24 hours a day and deal with their addictions all of the time,” Shanahan says. “This is one small way to support our patients in those interim time periods.”

During the pilot, which tracked 24 people using the app over the course of the month, Shanahan says he was surprised at how enthusiastic the responses were—users felt positively toward the app and indicated they would use it again in the future.

Michael Barros, an advisor on “Hey, Charlie’s” user interface who has been in recovery for heroin addiction, told Lindemer that many treatment facilities are run using old methods that are often ineffective.

“One of the most interesting thing about ‘Hey, Charlie’ is having Ph.D.s like Emily working to bring some science into a part of medicine that is still running on pen, paper, and hunches about what worked for people in the past,” Barros says. “The data that can be collected with an app like ‘Hey, Charlie’ is badly needed.”


Explore further:
Leading addiction experts call for more neuroscience research on long-term recovery

More information:
For more information, see heycharlie.org/heycharlie-app/

Provided by:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles