NIDA funds $1.8M Pro-Change substance abuse risk screening software study

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The National Institute on Drug Abuse has just awarded Pro-Change Behavior Systems’ Chief Science Officer Dr. Deborah Levesque a $1.77 million grant to continue developing mobile substance use disorder risk screening and advising software for patients.

The software asks patients to answer screening questions which are then assessed and reviewed with their doctor in the practice office, said Levesque. The first part of the study, using $150,000 in 2015, focusing on nine subjects, allowed patients and doctors to review the person’s risk of substance abuse, then followed them with text messages on how to manage that risk outside the office.

For patients at risk, the program delivers a brief stage-matched intervention for quitting their most problematic drug and for seeking treatment. The screening, brief intervention, and referral for treatment intervention also includes tailored text messages and online activities addressing key topics, such as managing cravings.

Providers are given access to a clinical dashboard summarizing the patient’s substance use risk scores and readiness to change, and provides tailored scripts and action steps to guide a brief in-person intervention session.

- Advertisement -

The next step, which began in September, is working with electronic health record experts to integrate the system into an undisclosed health center’s electronic health record system so it can be used with a larger number of people, Levesque said. Next, the project will identify 20 patients in the system with moderate or high risk of substance abuse and then use the system to inform doctor’s visits, followed by advisory text messaging. This phase will follow the patients for one month, Levesque said.

The first phase of the new study, Levesque said, will determine, “Can we integrate our program and our approach into the clinic’s work flow, to make this feasible for providers.”

The first phase will then solicit feedback from providers and patients about the system, and adjust it for the second phase, which will integrate the mobile screening software for every patient at 20 health centers nation-wide, about 1,300 people altogether, according to a statement from Pro-Change. Ten centers will get only the assessments, and another 10 will get the full program, she said.

Patients in this study will be enrolled in the program for six months, then monitored for another three months, Levesque said.

“NIDA’s investment in behavior change science to address substance use disorders is so timely given the current opioid epidemic in the U.S.,” said Dr. Sara Johnson, co-president and CEO of Pro-Change. “This innovative implementation of best practices in behavior change at the point of care to address risky substance use and provide appropriate referrals to local treatment options has the potential to be incredibly powerful, particularly given the capacity to monitor follow-through. Dr. Levesque’s work is addressing a significant unmet need.”

Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at