Scientists are in the process of using smartphone technology to prevent and treat drug carvings and substance abuse. Preliminary data about the multi-media device, called iHeal, was published online first in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.
According to the study's authors, many behavioral interventions used to treat patients are ineffective outside of the controlled clinical settings where they are taught. This failure can be attributed to several factors, including a patient's inability to recognize biological changes that indicate increased risk of relapse and an inability to change their behaviors to reduce health risk.
Edward Boyer, MD, PhD, professor of emergency medicine at UMass Medical School and lead author of the study, worked with colleagues at UMMS and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to design a mobile device using so-called "enabling technologies" that could be used to make behavioral interventions for substance abusers more effective outside the clinic or office environments. The result of their work, iHeal, combines sensors to measure physiological changes and detect trigger points for risky health behaviors, such as substance use, with smartphone software tailored to respond with patient-specific interventions.
Boyer and his teams examined the iHeal system architecture, as well as preliminary feedback from initial users, to identify key attributes and assess the device's viability. Their analyses suggest a number of technical issues related to data security, as well as the need for a more robust and less stigmatizing version before the device could be worn in public.