DynamiCare Health Launches $1.6M Study to Test Whether Financial Rewards can Help Vermonters Stop Drinking

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Research study on rewards-based digital coaching program for alcohol use now open to Vermont Medicaid members

Having that extra encouragement from my coach and accountability from the app, tests, and rewards has been really helpful to me in staying sober after rehab.

DynamiCare Health, a digital health company helping people with alcohol, nicotine and other drug problems, has opened enrollment in a federally-funded research study on its rewards-based digital coaching program for Vermont Medicaid members who struggle with alcohol use.

Vermonters are more likely to drink alcohol and binge drink than residents of most other U.S. states (NSDUH 2018). Thanks to a $1.6M federal National Institute of Health (NIH) grant obtained with the support of the State of Vermont’s Department of Vermont Health Access and Department of Health, DynamiCare has launched a randomized controlled trial of its digital care program. Initially launched in partnership with select treatment programs, the study is now open to Vermont Medicaid members who struggle with alcohol use. Participation is free, confidential, and convenient, because people can enroll by phone and participate from home — ideal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nationally, nearly 90% of people who have a drug or alcohol use disorder do not receive treatment for it (SAMHSA 2020). This study aims to test whether an innovative approach can solve this problem by: 1) making care accessible and convenient through technology; and 2) financially rewarding people for participating and staying sober. Study participants earn rewards for completing breathalyzer tests through their phone. Motivational incentives have been demonstrated to be effective in addiction treatment in over 100 randomized controlled trials. In a previous study, DynamiCare was found to double the rate of verified abstinence in alcohol use disorder patients.

Conrad, a participant in the study, has earned over $350 so far after completing inpatient treatment. “Having that extra encouragement from my coach and accountability from the app, tests, and rewards has been really helpful to me in staying sober after rehab,” said Conrad. “It’s a great program and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s trying to stop drinking.”

DynamiCare’s digital care program integrates a smartphone app with breathalyzer tests verified by selfie video, a smart debit card that blocks harmful spending, and weekly video calls with a certified recovery coach to drive healthy motivation and accountability. The study randomly assigns participants to either the intervention group, who receive the full program, or the control group, who receive compensation for completing research assessments. For more information, please visit: https://study.dynamicarehealth.com/VT

Dr. Scott Strenio, Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Vermont Health Access explained, “Vermont Medicaid is always interested in pursuing innovative ways for patients to access care in a manner that supports their medical needs while offering proven clinical outcomes. The ability to deliver healthcare for this and other common medical conditions in rural as well as urban settings through the clever use of an electronic application is the wave of the future.”

This study is funded by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA), within the State of Vermont's Agency of Human Services, is responsible for administering the Vermont Medicaid health insurance program and Vermont's state-based exchange for health insurance.

The Vermont Department of Health has been working to protect and promote the health of Vermonters for more than 125 years. The department’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP) oversees a network of health promotion, prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services for substance use. Our mission is to prevent, reduce and eliminate the problems caused by alcohol and other drug use.

DynamiCare Health is a digital care program that uses accountability and motivation to help people overcome addiction. Results from 3 clinical studies have shown DynamiCare to increase quit rates for opioids, alcohol, and tobacco by 2-3x compared to typical treatment. DynamiCare enables people to complete virtual substance tests through its app anytime, anywhere, through connected breath and saliva tests verified by selfie video. Members earn monetary rewards for staying sober, attending treatment (verified by GPS), and completing self-guided in-app therapy modules. DynamiCare matches members with a certified Recovery Coach who helps them stay accountable to their goals.

DynamiCare's innovative work has been recognized through numerous grants and awards, including 3 NIH grants and the $1M Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge. Their work has been featured in various news outlets, including the NY Times, WSJ, and CBS News. DynamiCare Health was founded in 2016 by Eric Gastfriend, Harvard MBA tech executive, and his father, David Gastfriend MD, an international expert in addiction medicine.

NOTE: Research reported is supported by the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers 1R43AA026234 and R44AA026234. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Eric Gastfriend
DynamiCare Health
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