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Massachusetts General Hospital and ideas42 join forces to identify new ways to support patients with opioid use disorder


Massachusetts General Hospital and ideas42 join forces to identify new ways to support patients with opioid use disorder

Collaboration will study effects of applying behavioral science to the adoption of innovative medical protocols

PR Newswire

BOSTON, Aug. 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and ideas42, a nonprofit behavioral design lab, today announced a new research collaboration aimed at supporting patients in emergency care seeking treatment for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). With funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, MGH and ideas42 will use behavioral insights to inform the design, implementation, and evaluation of a series of new interventions for this growing population.

ideas42 (PRNewsfoto/ideas42)

OUD has reached crisis levels across the United States in recent years. Opioid-related overdose and death rates are skyrocketing, particularly on the nation's east coast. Massachusetts has one of the largest increases in opioid-related overdose and deaths, with rates growing four-fold since 2010. It also has the highest rate of opioid-related emergency department visits in the nation by far. Countless headlines attest to the difficulties of tackling this alarming public health crisis and providing appropriate evidence-based treatment for the many factors and behaviors that contribute to OUD.  

MGH is on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, developing innovative approaches that treat substance use disorders along all levels of care; from primary community-based prevention to emergency intervention and treatment to chronic disease management. Key components of the initiative include an on-demand, transitional outpatient clinic and immediate access to buprenorphine in the hospital's emergency department.

With this new ideas42 collaboration, MGH will explore insights and approaches from the growing field of behavioral science, the study of how humans make decisions and act in the real world, to optimize their emergency department OUD treatment protocols and enable physicians to help more patients into effective, evidence-based treatment. Interventions will be developed from a diagnosis process consisting of interviews with physicians, addiction specialists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants on staff, as well as MGH patients, to understand perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs related to seeking and receiving treatment for OUD within the emergency department.

"The opioid epidemic is the most significant public health crisis of our time. The medical community's effective, cross-sector response to the AIDS/HIV epidemic provides vital lessons for today. We must apply those strategies to our current crisis to help those in need," said Alister Martin, MD, MPP, Emergency Medicine Chief Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital. "By leveraging insights in behavioral economics, we have an opportunity to make evidence-based practice the new common practice in the ER and give patients another chance at recovery."

"Science-based service delivery design rooted in the realities of human behavior is a great new tool for health care providers, with the potential to impact everything from flu shots to the opioid epidemic," said Ted Robertson, Managing Director at ideas42. "We're committed to developing effective solutions, in partnership with some of the best minds at MGH on the front lines of innovations in clinical health, to help improve the many, many lives affected by this epidemic."

"Research shows that buprenorphine is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder, yet many hospitals don't provide access to it in emergency rooms," said Julie Williams, Results-Driven Government Manager at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. "This groundbreaking collaboration between ideas42 and Massachusetts General Hospital will use behavioral science insights to understand why physicians may not be prescribing buprenorphine and what can be done to improve the care of people with OUD in the ER."

Opioid use also puts people at risk for the spread of infectious diseases like HIV or hepatitis, and chronic conditions like cirrhosis. Effectively addressing opioid use disorder could result in tremendous public health benefits as well as substantial cost savings. It is estimated that substance use disorder costs the United States healthcare system over $700 billion annually.

This collaboration spans multiple phases of diagnosis, design, and testing over the next twelve months. Following an investigation into the potential barriers and behavior drivers facing patients with OUD in emergency care, ideas42 will design a set of behavioral interventions to be piloted in MGH's emergency room aimed at improving processes and outcomes for emergency medicine care teams, patients and outside support service providers. These tools will be designed in close collaboration with the hospital's Emergency Medicine Department and Bridge Clinic for Addiction Recovery on the basis of promising behavioral science research and insights and adapted to fit the context, with an eye for future scale. They will then be rigorously tested using randomized controlled trials.

About ideas42

ideas42's mission is to use the power of behavioral science to design scalable solutions to some of society's most difficult problems. ideas42 grew out of research programs in psychology and economics at top academic institutions, and its work draws on decades of experimental scientific research. ideas42 uses these insights to design scalable ways to improve programs, policies and products in the real world. ideas42 works with a wide range of partners, from leading foundations and non-profit organizations, to government bodies and businesses. In short, anyone who wants to make a positive difference to peoples' lives.

Media Contact: Mitra Salasel,

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