How Watson technology can help with addiction care

By | 2 minute read | August 9, 2018

recovery group celebrating

I’d like to share a story about an innovative solution my company, Dimensions Recovery Centers, is developing in collaboration with IBM Watson Health. Using Watson Care Manager, which is a cloud-based solution, our project is the first to apply artificial intelligence (AI) powered analytics to treating people caught up in the growing addiction epidemic.

Now at crisis proportions across the U.S., the epidemic centers around opioids, but abuse of other drugs and alcohol contributes as well. If our solution can move the dial even a few points away from relapse and toward sustainable recovery, individuals, their families and society would benefit enormously.

Even amidst the opioid crisis, there is some good news. Rising awareness of addiction and less social stigma has led more people to seek help, while legislation at the federal and state levels has mandated behavioral health coverage. As a result, treatment is part of the core healthcare menu for people who need it.

Moving beyond the status quo

Still, significant treatment challenges remain. Behavioral health processes for addiction recovery have remained static for some 30 years, with little application of advanced technology.

Consider that recovery centers generate reams of paper-based files of medical and psychological data about each client, including the game plan for recovery after the client moves on. Most times, however, the files do not get sent to the aftercare providers. Usually the first question they ask is, “How did it go?” The answer can be hard to assess without this prior documentation.

The health insurance industry is also driving change in this area. Payers increasingly require evidence of positive treatment outcomes before approving reimbursements. If a client returns for repeated treatments, insurers want to know what will be different this time. They demand record-keeping continuity, as well as metrics about the percentage of people helped and which treatments were effective. Given the industry’s reliance on analog data, such statistics are hard to calculate.

Fostering recovery through AI analytics

Watson Care Manager can help address these challenges. Digitization of a client’s records in a HIPAA-enabled manner allows aftercare providers to gain authorized access to this data, add their notes and collaborate with the recovery center team. Having the treatment plan in hand can help aftercare providers contribute to the client’s progress. We believe this coordinated continuity of care can help to reduce relapses.

Record sharing is just the first benefit. Watson Care Manager can also aggregate the records of every person treated, creating a wealth of data, both structured and unstructured, for analysis. Using Watson Analytics, insights can be gleaned from the data, such as evidence-based statistics to support payer requirements for reimbursements or generating suggestions for the care teams as to which treatments might be considered for a particular patient.

Caregivers will always have the final say, but they welcome suggestions based on intelligent analysis of clinical records. Over time, the Watson technology will refine suggestions as it absorbs more data.

If companies in the behavioral health industry don’t innovate, they are likely to fail. We at Dimensions Recovery are excited to be working with IBM Watson Health to apply AI to addiction recovery. Together, we can help our clients get back on their feet to lead meaningful and productive lives.

Watch Michael Treanor discuss AI-powered addiction treatment: