A new smartphone app promises to help recovering alcoholics following treatment, adding yet another example of how technology can optimize and personalize care.
In an accompanying study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers show that the so-called Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS) app can help people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) reduce risky drinking days after they leave treatment facilities. "The promising results of this trial in continuing care for AUDs point to the possible value of a smartphone intervention for treating AUDs and perhaps other chronic illnesses,” wrote Dr. David H. Gustafson and his colleagues at the University of Madison-Wisconsin.
The app, which was developed with funding from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, provides users with a variety of tools designed to help them stay sober. With A-CHESS, recovering patients have quick access to peer support group and addiction experts; reminders encouraging adherence to therapeutic goals; personalized educational materials; and internet-based resources.
To investigate, Gustafson and colleagues followed 349 patients with AUD leaving three different residential therapy programs. All participants were enrolled in a year-long, standard post-treatment program. Half of them were also given a smartphone with the A-CHESS app.
At the end of the trial, the researchers found that the smartphone group reported 1.37 fewer risky drinking days — that is, 24-hour periods containing at least one two-hour period during which the patient exceeds the four-drink standard for men or the three-drink standard for women — compared to those who did not use the app. Participants in the smartphone group were also more likely to maintain consistent abstinence from alcohol.
A-CHESS is not the only app with the potential to reshape the public health landscape. Another example is the AXS map, which helps disabled people find data on wheelchair accessibility and disability regulation compliance in their neighborhood. Similarly, an app developed by researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, helps you spot allergens like peanuts in foods.