Substance use disorder, including opioid dependency and addiction, is one of the gravest public health threats facing the United States, yet many physicians and other providers lack the training to confidently screen their patients and help get them treatment. To fill that gap, Northwell Health and Center on Addiction (formerly The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) have released a new app for health care providers that seamlessly guides them through this process.
“On average, doctors in the US have had less than two hours of dedicated training on the topic of substance use, and less than that on substance use disorder,” said Sandeep Kapoor, MD, director of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) at Northwell Health. “So how do we handle the 40 million people who are dealing with this issue? Clinical team members have to be able to comfortably start the conversation with their patients, and this app will empower them to do that.”
The SBIRT for Health Professionals app is designed to be used by providers in a health care setting. It is available for tablets, and offers a standardized, streamlined set of questions to use with patients to help identify potentially problematic patterns of drug or alcohol use. If the answers identify a moderate to high level of risk for health or social problems due to substance use, the app guides health care professionals in how to speak to patients about their readiness to change their lifestyles and set new goals. The app also supports the provider in discussions with patients regarding referrals to substance use disorder treatment, when appropriate.
SBIRT is an evidence-based approach that health care professionals can use as part of their clinical toolbox to effectively address risky substance use among their patients. However, many providers are unfamiliar with the approach or have faced difficulty in adopting it within their own practices—and the app can help with that, said Megan O’Grady, PhD, associate director of health services research at Center on Addiction.
“A discussion with a patient can prevent substance misuse from escalating to addiction,” said Dr. O’Grady. “Hundreds of people die every day because of misuse of opioids, alcohol or other substances. Wider use of SBIRT will save lives. Our app helps to break down some of the barriers to adoption by providing a simple tool that is easy for clinical team members to use.”
iMedicalApps.com selected SBIRT for Health Professionals as a top new app for medical professionals. Northwell’s SBIRT health coaches tested the tablet app, which is currently available for iOS. Versions for Android and laptops are planned. It can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for free.
“Our aim is to get the app into the hands of as many health care professionals as possible,” said Dr. Kapoor. “Just as we check patients’ blood pressure and measure weight to protect their health, it’s important for us to screen for and understand patients’ substance use status. Universally screening patients with evidence-based tools is the key to identifying people at risk and getting them the help that they need sooner rather than later.”