Focus of the Report: Substance abuse and drug addiction are conditions that are notoriously difficult to treat with long-term success, as 40% to 60% of patients with drug addiction relapse. Mobile medical applications (MMAs) may fill gaps that currently exist in conventional treatment programs by enabling patients to better manage their care and track their health and wellness activities and by providing access to information and communications with healthcare providers. This report focuses on evaluation of the use of MMAs to aid in the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) in adults.

Technology Description: MMAs are interactive programs for use on a portable personal device such as a smartphone or tablet. Functions include administration of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interactive lessons and quizzes; a log for patient-reported substance use, cravings, and triggers; clinical input (e.g., urine drug screen results); and provision of rewards for adherence to care.

Controversy: MMAs are new interventions, intended as an adjunct to conventional treatment, and whether they improve health outcomes warrants evaluation within the context of an HTA.

Key Questions:

  • What is the efficacy of treatment including MMAs compared with conventional treatment?

  • Does evidence suggest differences in efficacy or safety among MMAs?

  • Have definitive patient selection criteria been established for MMAs?

  • What safety issues are associated with MMAs?

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