Case Study: Washington University School of Medicine

Saving Lives by Providing Crucial Content & Resources to those with Opioid Addictions: A Case Study with the Washington University School of Medicine and iTether Technologies


The rates of opioid addiction in Arizona have risen to alarming levels in the last few years, with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declaring it both an epidemic and a statewide health emergency during the summer of 2017. The U.S. isn’t faring any better in this area, either. In 2017, Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) released a report revealing the number of its members who had been diagnosed with an opioid addiction had skyrocketed by nearly 500% in a seven-year span. There’s no question that this issue has become a public health crisis and is claiming far too many lives in Arizona and in the greater U.S.

Investigators Connecting Health and Social Media (iCHASM) is a research team led by Dr. Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, clinically-trained & licensed psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The iCHASM team wanted to address this problem, and find ways to recruit those suffering with an Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) into treatment, while simultaneously increasing their odds of recovery. But, the team had to first identify this at-risk group and then find a solution that would help them understand their recovery options, have access to them and be interested in pursuing them.


First, iCHASM relied on its expertise in social media to recruit and study >300 participants who met the criteria for an Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Nearly all participants (99%) had abused more than one type of opioid in the past month and over half (53%) used ≥3 different opiates. Heroin was the most commonly used opiate (65%) followed by oxycodone (50%). Two-thirds of these participants were not engaged in treatment (67%), and a similar majority expressed the belief that their drug use was problematic (65%).

Next, iCHASM selected a strategic partner in iTether, the cloud-based platform, seeking to improve substance abuse recovery rates through delivery of evidence-based outcomes. The two entities engaged in a pilot program that supplied vital health information on evidence-based treatment recovery options for OUD. The team developed modules within the iTether app based on SAMHSA’s handbook, “Decisions in Recovery: Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.”

The content delivered targeted information about the most effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT), how they work to assist recovery, their costs, research findings about their efficacy and potential side effects. iCHASM and iTether also used the iTether platform to disseminate video testimonials from people in successful OUD recovery that had used these medications as part of their recovery journey.


iCHASM and iTether’s pilot program included 30 participants who were struggling with an OUD which lasted 3 months. The feedback was very favorable, with 80% of participants agreeing that the iTether app helped them have a better understanding of their OUD recovery options.

iCHASM and iTether have since enhanced the app with even more features meant to increase recovery rates, including:

  • The ability to chat with board-certified counselors within the app.
  • An easy-to-use treatment provider locator for users to find the nearest opioid treatment centers.
  • A social networking functionality to facilitate online and private networking between researchers, online counselors/coaches, patients, and/or peers.

After the success of this pilot program, iCHASM and iTether are eager to continue their work together and play a key role in moving Arizona and the greater U.S. away from the opioid epidemic that is claiming so many lives.

iTether and Healthcloud Engage Patients with Critical Recovery Resources

Prove Your App’s Value Quickly with Progress Health Cloud

  March 26, 2018 0 Comments

Prove Your App’s Value Quickly with Progress Health Cloud_870x450

Traditional HIPAA-compliant backend solutions can be very slow to develop and costly to build and maintain. Progress Health Cloud gets you to market dramatically faster.

Substance abuse recovery apps are not new. They’ve been around for years now, from AA’s digital ‘Big Book’ to Pear Therapeutics’ mobile 12-step program. What iTether has done, however, is something different.

Sean Gunderson, CEO and co-founder of iTether believes the first step in the fight against substance abuse starts by transforming the way treatment is delivered to patients struggling with addiction.

“The way it’s been done the last 40 years is through a paper-based system,” Gunderson explained. “You come into a program and get a booklet with a program you’re going to follow. Whether you’re a 19-year-old heroin addict or a 55-year- old alcoholic, you’re going down the same path. If that’s all you do, a 30-day in-patient clinical program, there’s a 90% chance of relapse within one year.”

Using Progress Health Cloud, iTether has developed an app and clinical portal that puts patient care in the hands of providers, allowing them unprecedented control over the recovery experience offered by the app. Where before a provider would either have to use the existing framework of an app, or simply not engage their patient outside of scheduled meetings, now they can check in 24/7 with an app customized to their specifications.

iTether App

The iTether team initially began working with an outsourced development house, but the developer proposed a backend that would take upward of six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build. This simply didn’t work—the iTether team wanted to get a product to market as soon as possible to prove concept value.

While developing a brand new application from the ground up could have taken anywhere from six to eight months, doing it with Progress Health Cloud took a fraction of the time. The iTether team was able to build the backend in just one week and had a minimal viable product in beta in just over two months.

One of the key selling points for Progress Health Cloud was the fact that it was a HIPAA-compliant app cloud. If this wasn’t the case, it would have been up to iTether to gain HIPAA compliance and to maintain it—and that can cost millions of dollars and take far too much time.

A study at the Washington University Medical School has shown that over 75% of patients believe that the iTether app gives them more information and more motivation to make decisions regarding their health and recovery. 85% of patients surveyed agreed that they would use iTether in the future if they needed to make decisions about their recovery.

iTether allows for a data-driven approach to recovery, one that has traditionally been impossible. With the data that is fed to payers and providers alike, accountability, adaptability, and accessibility have become the prevailing forces in patient recovery. Using Progress Health Cloud, iTether is transforming the substance abuse recovery space and making it easier and more accessible for patients, providers, and payers.

To learn more, check out the iTether case study.