A physician leader who has worked with technology for remote alcohol monitoring for several years sees more of his patients wanting to retain mobile testing devices even after their treatment program has ended. In one case, says Gregory Skipper, MD, director of professionals health services at Promises Treatment Centers, a medical specialist who received treatment has continued to use a monitoring device for four years.
“She likes seeing the zeros—she sees it as reinforcing,” says Skipper, who specializes in treatment of professionals and has done a great deal of consulting and writing on ongoing patient monitoring.
Skipper has had positive experiences with the technology developed by Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Soberlink, which this month received federal premarket clearance for its Breathalyzer technology for medical use by healthcare providers. He says that patients in his day treatment program are monitored remotely from day one (they are asked to self-administer the breath tests once in the morning and once at night). Some patients end up purchasing the devices, he says.
“They never complain,” Skipper says of patients asked to use the technology off-site in the program. “They think it's cool.”
This monitoring does not end the need for urine testing for drug use, of course, since it tests only for alcohol, says Skipper.
The Soberlink system includes a web-based feature that allows for the setting of alerts that can help put case managers in rapid contact with patients if a positive reading occurs. Skipper says positives are addressed on an individual basis in his program, with retesting often encouraged (especially if the patient denies having used alcohol). He adds that it is helpful to give patients specific time windows within which they should conduct the tests.
In all cases, a positive is confronted directly in the program, Skipper says. “The outcome could be a transfer to a higher level of care,” he says.