Google (and big data) enter the drug rehab business.

A “tech-focused” addiction treatment and research
center in Dayton, OH. Could this be a game changer?

Alphabet steps up in the battle against addiction
It’s been a secret for over a year. Google and its parent company, Alphabet, Inc., have entered the drug treatment business, armed with its ability to amass and analyze data and driven to assist in “one of the greatest health crises the US has seen.” The company confirmed that its health and medical science arm, Verily, has established a new kind of addiction treatment facility: “tech-focused,’ a data-driven ecosystem devoted to sustained recovery. We applaud Google on this announcement. It’s not too late and our nation needs all the help we can get to move treatment forward. Data can make the difference. In a statement, the company says it hopes to “change how addiction is treated and how providers are paid.”

To bolster the strategy, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) has coordinated a new healthcare non-profit entity, called “OneFifteen,” named for the estimated 115 people who died every day from opioid overdoses in 2017. They plan to open a 32,000 square foot SUD and OTP (Opium Treatment Program) treatment center in Dayton, a city hard hit by the crisis, by 2020.

OneFifteen and evidence-based care
OneFifteen is funded by Verily and partners, the company said in its announcement: https://onefifteen.org/press/. The “ecosystem” includes OneFifteen Health, a taxable non-profit to manage behavioral health services, and OneFifteen Recovery, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) to coordinate community-based, wrap-around patient services.

“Because we will have facilities, an entire ecosystem and data, we’ll be able to take a more holistic understanding of a person’s health both inside and outside as we follow them long-term,” said OneFifteen CEO Marti Taylor. “It’s pretty unique being able to understand their care and advance evidence-based treatment.” With the amount of healthcare research that’s been compiled by Verily, OneFifteen hopes to create what they call a “learning healthcare system,” which could provide insights into how to treat addiction and promote sustained recovery. Verily said it believes that the “full continuum of care” should include housing and vocational training along with treatment–in one location–to help achieve optimal outcomes.

“No single solution”
Verily and OneFifteen come to the table with the understanding that there is no single. silver bullet to recovery. In a CNBC report, a Verily representative said “strategies spanning from intensive rehabilitation programs to drop-in meetings” are all part of the solution and that the company “hopes to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in helping people get and stay sober.” Verily will apply its research technology into OneFifteen’s approach to analyze and measure how effective its treatment really is.

“We’re really on this quest to fundamentally transform behavioral health,” Danielle Schlosser, senior clinical scientist of behavioral health at Verily, told CNBC. “I think anybody working in this field should be excited because we’re going to see change with the level of investment going into this initiative. You could imagine something as simple as people answering a survey or more sophisticated technology to gain insight of who that person is, what they’re encountering in their environment,” Schlosser said.

Verily will focus on what works in the clinic and then “track patient behavior when they get out to see what sticks.”

It’s data analytics on a grand scale and could be as important a project as this country has seen in healthcare in decades. With Google, Verily, and OneFifteen, the science of addiction treatment may take a hopeful turn toward success, restoring what has been lost to our society, which continues to be ravaged by the plague of opiod addiction.

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