Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles are developing web and mobile apps to aid patients struggling with addiction--and their therapists--to track progress and have quick access to help.

The program is starting with gambling addiction, but will expand to support treatment of other addictions, as well as other behavioral problems such as depression, says Ardeshir Rahman, program manager of the behavioral technologies lab at the UCLA Gambling Studies Program. “We’re looking for people who want to get better,” Rahman adds. “As long as a user is proactive, we can see progress.”

Patients will receive mobile apps that offer assistance when urges become too strong or a person is in an environment where behavioral triggers could cause a relapse. Patients will connect from their mobile phone to a secure database to transmit behavioral information, and receive analytics from the database to track progress. The apps offer techniques to manage urges, or divert attention to other healthy activities, and enable contact with trusted friends or therapists.

Using the associated application programming interface from secure information storage vendor TrueVault to transmit encrypted data in the JSON database, patients and therapists also can track progress, such as the frequency of urges and successes in avoiding them, as well as tracking levels of depression and anxiety. A similar process was being self-developed on UCLA servers to support a pilot study until a developer learned about TrueVault, Rahman says. He liked that the API was already made and HIPAA compliant. “It was efficient and stable compared to the quick-hack we were making for the pilot,” he recalls. “We needed 2-3 months just to make ours stable and they already had it.”

The web app for therapists has been developed and the mobile app for patients is nearly done.

The web app enables therapists to use data to shape the course of treatment. Data analytics offers cross referencing of the times and places that a patient is getting urges, specific triggers at work and the patient’s mood at the time to find if certain moods correlate with relapsing. “You can start to get a window on how the gambling issues are playing out in the patient’s environment,” Rahman says.

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