App Review: BMC MAT App
Opioid use disorder (OUD) has a considerable negative impact on quality of life and is considered an epidemic in the United States. OUD is also an illness associated with significantly increased rates of morbidity and mortality. Typically, OUD is a chronic, lifelong disease, and relapses are common. Nevertheless, there are evidence-based medical treatments available that can save lives. Unfortunately, many patients are never offered these treatments.
Opioids include heroin, morphine, fentanyl, codeine, and synthetic opioids like oxycodone. OUD should be treated with opioid replacement therapy consisting of buprenorphine or methadone. This reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality. Naltrexone is useful to prevent relapse, and naloxone is used to treat opioid overdose.
The purpose of the BMC MAT App is to increase access to these life-saving treatments for OUD patients, by educating and supporting healthcare workers with the medical options that are available and scientifically proven to be efficient.
Boston Medical Center: An Introduction
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, academic medical center located in the south of Boston. With more than 1 million patients visiting the center every year and over 70 medical specialties and subspecialties, many BMC physicians are leaders in their fields and use the most advanced medical technology.
Boston Medical Center has now developed the BMC MAT App, the first-ever app to help medical workers provide their patients with evidence-based addiction treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, via the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Opioid Resource Network, partly funded the app’s creation.
Who Is the BMC MAT App for?
Many years of research have shown that medications for addiction, such as buprenorphine, save lives and reduce the risk of overdose death in people suffering from opioid use disorder. It has also been shown that the administration of buprenorphine in office-based settings reduces high-risk behaviors that are related to injection drug use. Still, the medications that are available to treat OUD, like buprenorphine and naltrexone, are unfortunately underutilized. One 2018 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that only three out of 10 opioid overdose survivors received treatment with buprenorphine or naltrexone.
“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. 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,” says Colleen LaBelle, director of Boston Medical Center’s Office-Based Addiction Treatment, who led the development of this app.
The purpose of the BMC MAT app is to support healthcare workers treating patients with opioid use disorder. The app provides the guidelines and resources for treating opioid use disorder with medication (naltrexone or buprenorphine).
BMC MAT App Pricing
The BMC MAT app is available for download free of charge from the Apple iTunes store and on Google Play.
Technology Important in Tackling the National Addiction Crisis
Opioid use disorders affect more than 16 million people globally, with over 2.1 million of them in the United States. On a global scale, there are more than 120,000 deaths annually attributed to opioids. The U.S. is facing an addiction crisis, with more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths — the highest on record — taking place during the year ending in May 2020.
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 1.6 million people age 12 and older suffer from OUD. Making this even more alarming is the fact that injection drug use is common among sufferers of OUD, which also increases the risk for other life-threatening diseases like HIV and hepatitis. There are also drug-related crimes to consider, that more often than not follow in the wake of addiction and OUD.
The costs of addiction weigh heavily on the healthcare system. In this context, advanced applications like the BMC MAT app can provide an important support for healthcare workers as they plan treatments for this very vulnerable group of patients.
Benefits of the BMC MAT App
The BMC MAT app is a user-friendly and interactive application built on clinical algorithms to help walk caregivers and healthcare providers through every step of the decision-making process when treating patients with OUD.
With the BMC MAT app also comes access to several useful and important assessment tools, like 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 app also includes a Quick Start tool to help healthcare providers decide how to approach the treatment of their patients with OUD. It also contains information on how to manage chronic pain in patients with a history of OUD.
Alternatives to the BMC MAT App
As the app is the first of its kind, there are no alternatives offering the same functionality. Many of the other apps in this space are more geared toward supporting the patient in recovery, such as the MARR Addiction Treatment App and the Recovery Connector App, which both focus on helping recovering addicts find a supportive network of others sharing their experiences. The Pear reSET-O® is another interesting app. It is a 12-week prescription application for patients with OUD, developed to enhance outpatient treatment.
What People Say About the App
In the Apple iTunes store, the BMC MAT App has so far received nothing but five-star reviews. One user gives the following review: “This app is great. If you are a provider working in addiction medicine this app is an amazing resource.”
On Google Play, another user gives it five stars and write that the “Android version is clear, quick, and easy to use.” Another user gives the app a one-star review, saying that “This app does not include Suboxone (Buprenorphine/Nalaxone)!“. However, that feedback received a quick reply from BMC promising to look into ways to improve this.
As the medical system struggles to help patients with opioid use disorder, the individual and societal costs are high. The suffering and the destructive behavior that follow from this disease are massive. With the BMC MAT app, healthcare workers get easy access to support and instructions in treating this group of patients in an evidence-based way. Hopefully, this will mean a larger number of patients get the treatment that will be most effective for them.
“Millions of Americans struggle with substance use disorders, yet a fraction of these individuals receive treatment for their condition. This app brings resources and guidance into the hands of providers to help expand access to medication to treat opioid use disorder,” says LaBelle.