METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - A new app could help opioid-addicted patients stay on their treatment plan and Jefferson Parish is the first in the state to adopt it.
Opioid overdoses have plagued Jefferson Parish over the last six years and according to the parish coronoer, Gerry Cvitanovich, the numbers are still growing.
Dr. Thomas Hauth works with patients battling opioid use disorder, and sees the effects of their addiction firsthand.
"It's a devastating illness, and we know it's a brain disease, and when I tell folks or family members with the disease, it's a chronic illness that can be instantly fatal," Hauth said.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, Jefferson Parish reported 142 deaths from opioids in 2017, four times amount in Orleans Parish.
JeffCare, a clinic in Metairie, is looking to bring those numbers down with a new tool called "emocha."
"We are in the initial phases of deployment of the emocha video direct observed therapy app, which is a technology we hope helps individuals with addiction be successful in treatment and increase their adherence to medication," Hauth said.
The app allows patients to record video of themselves taking each dose of their medication, and report symptoms or side effects, according to Michelle Mendes, the director of communications for emocha.
“After that is submitted, it’s sent over to a web platform that their care team can use to review any symptoms that have been reported, the videos themselves to confirm that they actually took the medication, and then they can use both of those tools to communicate back and forth with one another,” Mendes said.
Mendes said the tool establishes a much-needed relationship between patients and their care team.
"Being supported throughout treatment helps that patient continue their medication, helps them stay retained in care, and studies also show that patients that are taking medication-assisted treatment are much less likely to ultimately have a fatal overdose," Mendes said.
Hauth said he hopes this technology will not only help patients, but their loved ones as well.
“It’s an interesting diseases because it affects the family a lot more, the significant others a lot more, than necessarily [the] individuals. I know they struggle a lot, and they’re looking for answers and things that they can do,” Hauth said.