New alcohol app helps Hepatitis C patients fight addiction
Primrose Healthcare has just launched an innovative alcohol application (app) designed to help hepatitis C patients, who often struggle with substance abuse, overcome alcohol addiction. Leveraging mobile technology and powered by Here and Now Systems, the alcohol app provides personalized education and resources through goal setting, alerts, coaching, and ongoing feedback to better engage and support hepatitis C patients on their journey toward alcohol addiction recovery.
“The app addresses a need for an approach to hepatitis C treatment that focuses on the overall health of the patient, including comorbidities or any substance abuse issues that may be present,” said Henri Cournand, CEO of Primrose Healthcare.
Alcohol abuse is literally a life and death matter for hepatitis C patients, who already have a compromised liver. In fact, “88 percent of liver-related events or in-hospital deaths occurred in patients with chronic alcohol abuse disorders or severe comorbidities,” according to the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL). In spite of the facts, many of the estimated 3.5 million infected with the hepatitis C virus in the U.S. continue to struggle with alcohol abuse and need support.
Leveraging mobile technology, the app helps hepatitis C patients control and manage alcohol urges so they can stop drinking and improve their health. It gives individuals easy access to useful tools, feedback and personalized coaching. This provides an extra layer of support, outside of counseling sessions and support groups, when hepatitis C patients need it the most—at the moment when alcohol urges occur. With this added support, patients can make positive steps toward improved health. For patients who stopped drinking, they saw a 29 percent reduction in risk for either a liver-related event or in-hospital death compared to those who continued to drink, according to an EASL study.
“The app was developed based on decades of research on effective interventions and our research into its effectiveness has been very promising,” said Patrick Dulin, Ph.D., Founder of Here and Now Systems and Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. “People who used the prototype app for only six weeks cut down the days they spent engaged in heavy drinking by 60 percent and reduced their overall number of drinks consumed by over 50 percent.”
“I’m very excited to partner with Primrose and make the alcohol app available to a broader audience of health plans, providers and consumers,” Dulin said. “Managing substance abuse issues is truly an important part of a holistic hepatitis C management program.”
For physicians, this innovative app provides a valuable resource that begins to bridge the gap between behavioral health, typically used for substance abuse issues, and primary care for physical care. Gastroenterologists can prescribe the app as an additional resource that can be combined with referrals to more behavioral health oriented services such as a psychiatrist or support group. The physician can also be involved in monitoring the patient’s use of the app and provide encouragement at follow-up visits as needed.
“Everyone has a phone these days and it makes sense to leverage mobile technology in caring for patients,” Cournand said. “Health care providers should consider finding a way to leverage this highly effective, yet low cost technology, that works to better engage patients and improve health.”
The app is designed to enhance awareness of drinking and related problems, assist in goal setting and help manage triggers using “in-the-moment” tools. Patients initially build a profile that allows the app to provide customized interventions. For instance, patients input days and times when they typically drink. The app then sends them alerts and instruction on doing something different besides drinking during those times. The app also helps users manage cravings wherever and whenever they occur. If a patient has a craving to drink they can use the immediate, research-based help functions to manage the urge and avoid drinking. The app checks in with the patient daily and provides a weekly progress report that can be shared with a friend, family member or health care provider. The app also notifies the patient when a goal has been met (i.e, 15 days sober) and encourages rewards for meeting it.