Using Mobile Applications in Opioid Treatment: Opportunities and Challenges

Date: December 21, 2016

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) awarded Optimal a contract to assess the implementation and effectiveness of mobile application technology to provide recovery support services to patients undergoing treatment for opioid dependence in an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP). After conducting expert consultations, interviewing academic and technology experts, and completing an environmental scan of available mobile apps through an extensive literature review of the current landscape, Optimal found that no apps were available to specifically enhance the treatment of opioid-dependent patients. Due to the lack of existing mobile apps, Optimal helped develop and launch the SAMHSA Mobile App Challenge.

These findings resulted in Optimal’s conducting a qualitative study to determine the feasibility of using mobile applications in opioid-dependency treatment. The focus group of clinicians provided an understanding of the interest, readiness, perceptions, and challenges for implementing a patient-focused mobile application in OTPs. After the qualitative study, Optimal concluded that mobile apps as a recovery tool were especially suitable for vulnerable populations, such as opioid-dependent patients, particularly in promoting patients’ organizational skills and facilitating a treatment structure that will benefit both patients and clinicians.

For more information regarding the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, please visit SAMHSA.