Boston Medical Center Launches mHealth App for MAT Providers

Boston Medical Center has developed an mHealth app that gives healthcare providers access to resources used in providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) therapy to patients dealing with substance abuse.

Boston Medical Center is launching an mHealth app designed to assist healthcare providers using medication-assisted treatment (MAT) therapy.

The BMC MAT app, developed by Colleen LaBelle MSN, RN-BC, director of the hospital’s Office-Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) program, offers clinical resources for providers who are prescribing buprenorphine or naltrexone for treatment of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD), as well as for patients living with chronic pain and those dealing with substance abuse issues.

“Millions of Americans struggle with substance use disorders, yet a fraction of these individuals receive treatment for their condition,” LaBelle, who is with BMC’s Grayken center for Addiction, 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.”

Substance abuse, stress and depression have been soaring in recent years – more than 81,000 overdose deaths were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between May 2019 and May 2020 – and have only been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

LaBelle, who launched BMC’s OBAT program in 2003 after the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of buprenorphine to treat OUD, is at the forefront of new efforts to bring substance abuse treatment into primary care settings, where it can be treated as a chronic condition and paired with behavioral health care and more advanced clinical services.

Because these services often take place in the clinical setting, telehealth advocates see this as ideal area for connected health collaboration, enabling primary care providers to connect with specialists for training and giving those specialists and telemental healthcare providers the opportunity to reach patients who can’t access in-person care.

Mental health and substance abuse treatment are among the most requested topics for Project ECHO telemedicine programs, in which large health systems and academic medical centers use the hub-and-spoke platform to push training programs, mentoring and other resources out to remote and small providers.

In Massachusetts, LaBelle and her team have extended the OBAT model to a number of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and that model has been adopted in locations across the country.

The BMC MAT app gives healthcare providers mHealth resources to handle MAT therapy in the office, including access to 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).

“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 said 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.”

And while federal and state authorities have relaxed the rules during the COVID-19 crisis to allow more telehealth access and coverage – especially around behavioral health and substance abuse services – there are efforts underway to make some of those measures permanent, including allowing providers to use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances used in MAT therapy.

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