Like many diseases, proactive early intervention can make all the difference in getting a person on the road to recovery and good health. That's exactly what's driving biomedical researchers at Boston Medical Center (BMC) who, with one foot planted firmly in medicine and the other in information technology, have designed an automated, voice-activated phone system they're now using to screen patients for possible substance abuse. Research shows many people will answer sensitive questions for any kind of computerized system when they will not necessarily to a real person, says Dr Amy Rubin, director of automated programs for the BMC team and a counseling psychologist. For now four different clinics within BMC, as well as a few nearby community health centers, use the system, which runs on Envox Communications Development Platform 7, a standards-based voice solution platform from Envox Worldwide.
>> SUCCESS STORIES real person,” says Dr. Amy Rubin, direc- tor of automated programs for the BMC team and a counseling psychologist. “Using speech, what we’re trying to do, and what the research also shows is helpful, is to identify people early on and to treat them in a nonjudgmental med- ical setting. If you wait until someone is seriously ill or dependent, then they may have already lost jobs and their families—and that’s really very late.” Keeping Tabs Even before SAMHSA issued an RFP looking for universal ways that primary care practices could better detect alcohol and drug problems among their patients, BMC had been using interactive voice re- sponse (IVR) systems to care for patients with chronic health conditions. For exam- Intervention via ple, in the late 1980s, BMC’s Medical In- formation Systems Unit team built a system to monitor patients with hyperten- sion between their doctor appointments. Automation Boston Medical Center designs a federally funded IVR system “In the ICU we’re monitoring people second to second, [but out of the office] how do we ensure that they actually do what we tell them?” says Dr. Robert Fried- man, head of the BMC team developing to detect patients at risk of substance abuse | BY GAYLE KESTEN voice solutions and a physician who has worked in the field of biomedical informat- rgans can be transplanted. Advanced cancer treatments are ics since the early 1960s. “We rely too saving lives. Babies are being born to previously infertile cou- much on patients and family members. I ples. Without a doubt, the medical field has come a long way. thought, we need a way to somehow mon- But
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