Pretaa, a Boston-based behavioral analytics company, announced a partnership with Fitbit on Tuesday to offer a data-driven support tool on the wrist for people struggling with drug addiction.
Pretaa partnered with Google-owned wearable maker Fitbit to build specific support features into Fitbit products, such as the ability to call a clinical nurse (or a friend, support group sponsor, or family member) if a user feels at risk of relapse.
Karen Romans, who manages partnerships at Fitbit and was a social worker in a previous life, says addicts leave a highly structured and tightly controlled environment when they leave treatment. “They were in a facility where they weren’t allowed to take their phones and stuff, and they were kind of told what they could and couldn’t do during that time for their own good,” says Romans. “So they come out and we say, ‘OK, we’re going to give you more control.'” Going back from treatment to real life is a scary prospect for people trying to quit drugs. They need a lifeline.
Pretaa’s technology allows Fitbit users to quickly seek support, but it also uses the device’s sensors to give treatment centre doctors a much-needed window into a patient’s well-being after discharge.
“[We look at] data from the Fitbit, such as heart rate, steps, oxygen level, body temperature, etc., and look for anomalies in the data,” says Pretaa CEO Michael Madon.
“We run it through our machine learning engine … and with that combination of human data, we ask, ‘What is not wrong here?'” of physical effort, the model can conclude that the user abuses drugs. That information could then be sent directly to the user’s medical record as a PDF file that the nurse can access immediately, Madon says. If the data shows signs that the patient may return to abuse and dependence, the patient’s caregiver may decide to report it.
Because of the privacy concerns associated with this type of monitoring, Madon and Romans emphasise that information is released only if the patient consents to it as part of their postdisclosure care plan.
Users can take surveys on their phone or Fitbit to report progress or mental health updates and receive positive affirmations from their caregivers.
Newer Fitbit devices, such as the Versa 3 smartwatch, have a ready watch face with a small “P” icon that the user can tap to directly connect with a caregiver or family member.
Madon says his company plans to use location data on users’ phones as another potential threat indicator. “It’s about geofencing, so when a patient comes in for treatment, they often share areas where they went to buy medicine, where they used medicine, or areas that made them feel anxious, and those areas often stay in the treatment center.” he says.
With the patient’s consent, the information can therefore go to the Pretaa platform, and if the patient’s phone detects that the patient has strayed into one of these dangerous areas, the clinical support person can be notified. Madon says the geofencing feature will roll out next year.
This month, Fitbit and Pretaa platforms will be introduced to California treatment centers. Madon says insurance companies often pay such centres a flat fee for a patient’s care, so they have a financial advantage in making sure the patient doesn’t relapse or need a readmission.
Pretaa and Fitbit emphasise that the patient can choose which features of the platform to use and what information about their wrist to share with caregivers and family. a place where we can do that, “says Madon. “When the [addiction] epidemic explodes and people experience it on a very visceral, personal level, we have to step up and bring all the technology we have—and make it work for the people who are trying to help.”