Clinical researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) are combining an innovative constellation of technologies such as artificial intelligence, smartphone programming, biosensors and wireless connectivity to develop a device designed to detect physiological stressors associated with drug cravings and respond with user-tailored behavioral interventions that prevent substance use. Preliminary data about the multi-media device, called iHeal, was published online first in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.
According to the study's authors, many behavioral interventions used to treat patients are ineffective outside of the controlled clinical settings where they are taught. This failure can be attributed to several factors, including a patient's inability to recognize biological changes that indicate increased risk of relapse and an inability to change their behaviors to reduce health risk.
Edward Boyer, MD, PhD, professor of emergency medicine at UMass Medical School and lead author of the study, worked with colleagues at UMMS and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to design a mobile device using so-called "enabling technologies" that could be used to make behavioral interventions for substance abusers more effective outside the clinic or office environments. The result of their work, iHeal, combines sensors to measure physiological changes and detect trigger points for risky health behaviors, such as substance use, with smartphone software tailored to respond with patient-specific interventions.