Boston Hospital Unveils ‘First-of-Its-Kind’ OUD Treatment App for Providers

Boston Medical Center (BMC), a nonprofit health care provider affiliated with the Boston University School of Medicine, has launched an app to help providers dispense medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to individuals suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD).

The interactive app, BMC MAT, is designed to help clinicians deliver MAT in office-based settings. It uses clinical algorithms to help guide providers on decision-making and implementation of medications like buprophreprine and naltrexone.

Screening and diagnostic tools for assessing an individual’s mental state and substance use activity are included in the app. The tools — which are industry-standard and routinely used by behavioral health practitioners — include the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM–5) diagnostic criteria for OUD, the Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS) and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C).

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BMC MAT also comes with a tool to help providers make the best decisions for treating individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) and those experiencing chronic pain due to a history of SUD.

The app, which BMC says is the first of its kind, is free of charge and currently available on Apple iTunes and Google Play. Development of the app was led by Colleen LaBelle, who is the director of BMC’s Office-Based Addiction Treatment program and the State Training and Technical Support+.

“Millions of Americans struggle with substance use disorders, yet a fraction of these individuals receive treatment for their condition,” LaBelle said in a press release. “This app brings resources and guidance into the hands of providers to help expand access to medication to treat opioid use disorder.”

The nation’s SUD epidemic has reached new heights, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 81,230 overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in May 2020. The number of fatalities — which was driven largely by synthetic opioids like fentanyl — was the highest ever in a one-year span. 

In response, the CDC has called on treatment providers to expand the number of locations where MATs like buprenorphine and naltrexone can be administered. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate was also introduced last December that would allow for providers to permanently dispense MAT services via telehealth without an in-person visit, potentially expanding the reach of resources like BMC MAT.

Federal laws on the books currently prohibit such services from being administered without an initial in-person visit, although restrictions on the administration of buprophrephrine by telemedicine have been temporarily loosened due to the pandemic.

“The data clearly shows that medication saves lives of those with opioid use disorder, and it’s our role to increase access to these medications,” LaBelle added in the press release. “Using technology and innovative approaches, like this app, we can better equip providers with evidence-based guidelines and resources to treat patients with opioid use disorder.”

Funding for the app was provided in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the Opioid Resource Network and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

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