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Study to Test If Financial Incentives Improve Medication Adherence for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder

A CDC-funded trial to examine using video technology and principles of behavioral economics to help patients with Opioid Use Disorder

patient takes medication
CDC awarded $2.1 million over three years for researchers to study whether combining financial incentives with emocha’s mobile health platform improves adherence to treatment for opioid use disorder.

BALTIMORE, Md. (Jan. 17, 2019) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded $2.1 million over three years for researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study whether combining financial incentives with emocha’s video Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) improves adherence to buprenorphine therapy, a medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

“It’s a significant opportunity to study the use of our video technology for daily medication adherence paired with an immediate reward,” said Sebastian Seiguer, CEO of emocha Mobile Health. “We are fortunate for the opportunity to be involved in rigorous scientific research to measure the impact of this novel technology in supporting patients with opioid use disorder.”

As part of the study, participants will video record themselves daily for 24 weeks as they take buprenorphine. Researchers will verify each dose and engage with participants to encourage adherence. Participants who take their medication, as confirmed through emocha, will receive a financial incentive at every dose. Researchers will assess if this combination of video DOT and financial incentives improves medication adherence, promotes retention in care, and reduces the risk for opioid overdose.

The research will take place over three years in Maryland, which is among the five states with the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths. The research team is lead by August Holtyn, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who is the principal investigator of the study, and Kenneth Silverman, Ph.D., a professor and the director of the Center for Learning and Health at Johns Hopkins who is the co-investigator.

According to the CDC, approximately 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. Of the nearly 2.1 million Americans with an opioid use disorder, only 20 percent of those individuals are in treatment. People with opioid use disorder who do receive medication assisted treatment are less likely to use opioids or have an opioid overdose.

Several recent policies have been introduced to leverage technology to address the opioid crisis. For example, in the declaration of the opioid crisis as a Public Health Emergency, the president specifically called out technology as a potential tool that can be used to increase access to treatment. Additionally, the recently-passed SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) included provisions that remove barriers to the use of telehealth for opioid use disorder treatment. Finally, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently approved Medicare reimbursement for the review of recorded patient videos and images, which can be leveraged to support patients through treatment.

“Effective, safe, and accessible solutions must be considered to end the opioid epidemic and the spread of related deadly infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Robert C. Bollinger, M.D., M.P.H., an inventor of emocha’s technology and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with joint appointments in Johns Hopkins’ schools of public health and nursing. “Technology such as video DOT offers near real-time insights into a patient’s adherence and response to medication, enabling providers to better tailor care plans and support retention in treatment.”

In a separate clinical trial, emocha is partnering with researchers at the University of Washington and Boston Medical Center to assess its medication adherence platform for patients receiving buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder. The research is part of a $1.7 million award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which approved emocha’s plan to begin the second phase of research earlier this year.

About emocha

emocha leverages technology licensed from Johns Hopkins University that delivers video directly observed therapy (DOT) to help people stay adherent to medication. Patients use a smartphone application to record videos of themselves taking each dose of medication and report any associated side effects. Providers assess patient data using a secure web portal and contact patients as needed. The platform is being used in public health departments, clinical trials, opioid use disorder treatment programs, hospitals, and managed care organizations to achieve high adherence rates and retain patients in care. Learn more at www.emocha.com.

National Institutes of Health Statement

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute On Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R44DA044053. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

CDC Statement

Research reported in this publication was supported by Grant number R01CE003069-01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Contact: Michelle Mendes | email: mmendes@emocha.com | phone: 410.928.4016