Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge Winners Fight Epidemic with Innovation

Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge

Companies earn $1 million prize to implement groundbreaking response to opioids

Imagine a world where hospitals help prevent opioid use, overdoses are avoided with the push of a button, those in recovery are rewarded for meeting their goals, and babies experiencing withdrawal are soothed by their beds. Thanks to the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, each of these technologies are $1 million closer to becoming a reality. Four companies — University Hospitals, Brave Technology Coop, DynamiCare Health and Prapela, Inc. — were announced as grand prize recipients of the competition. The Challenge launched in 2017 as a partnership between the Ohio Third Frontier and global science and technology network NineSigma, asking innovators to use technology to help solve the global opioid epidemic. Each winning company has a groundbreaking plan to fight the crisis from within Ohio.

The team at University Hospitals developed UH Care Continues, a technology-enabled app intended to prevent addiction, use disorders and overdoses related to opioids. The app ensures that care is provided at the right time, place and cost, creating a safety net for patients as they transition from hospitals into their communities. This new approach aims to reduce the number of opioids prescribed at hospitals. The app asks questions and assigns tasks to clinicians that helps determine which patients have risk-factors for opioid use disorder and whether an alternative to an opioid can be prescribed. Since its introduction, University Hospitals estimates the program has kept 12,000 opioid pills out of the community in eight months. With the $1 million prize, the hospital system plans to form a new company to support UH Care Continues and bring the app to market, working with multiple Ohio-based hospitals and health systems to grow rapidly.

“The Challenge has been an excellent platform to accelerate the commercialization of the project, and the initial funding and networking has allowed us to make an impact on the patients and communities we serve by reducing the number of opioids our clinical teams would have prescribed,” said Jonathan Sague, Vice President of Clinical Transformation. “The UH Care Continues solution affects all facets of the issue. We believe we are poised to make an impact both locally and beyond.”

Brave is developing the Brave Button, a device that requests supervision or support in response to opioid overdose or other emergency situations and can be installed in the home of a person with substance use disorders. At the beginning of the Challenge, Brave didn’t have a presence in Ohio and was still developing its technology. Now, the company has opened an office space in Columbus where they’ve made the button ready for market, redesigned their app and funded additional research. Additionally, they’ve established a partnership with the Franklin County Office of Justice Policy and Programs to install buttons for at-risk residents in supportive housing and provide access to their app for those transitioning out of incarceration. Their $1 million prize will fund that partnership and expand their Columbus presence.

“This will radically accelerate our ability to reduce overdose-death rates and fatalities in Ohio,” said Oona Krieg, COO. “There are more than 1 million people at risk of overdosing in Ohio over the next year, and only a small portion would be considered someone with a use disorder, so we need a wider net. There are many recreational and occasional drug users who are also at risk of overdose, and we provide that spectrum of care.”

The team at DynamiCare wants to help recovering opioid patients by providing positive resources and rewarding healthy behavior. Through their mobile app, DynamiCare facilitates testing, medical support and scheduling. Patients can take breath or saliva tests on selfie video. Additionally, providers keep track of appointments and records through the app, and financially reward patients via a smart debit card when they keep medical or mental-health appointments and achieve recovery milestones. DynamiCare has implemented its tech in Ohio, forging a partnership with BrightView, the state’s largest addiction treatment system. More than 100 BrightView patients used the platform, allowing DynamiCare to expand and improve. Now, the company wants to position itself on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and plans to use its newfound relationships and $1 million prize to go national.

“Patients almost doubled their abstinence rates from their various drugs and retained treatment substantially longer,” said David Gastfriend, co-founder and Chief Medical Officer. “In the past, they read papers and performed therapy, but they would lose the papers and not do the work. With DynamiCare, they read the modules on their phone and use them in the middle of the night when they were lonely or grieving to comfort themselves and stave off cravings, maintaining that abstinence.”

Prapela treats babies born addicted to opioids. These newborns start their lives suffering from withdrawal symptoms like a racing heart rate and breathing problems and continue to endure physical and neurodevelopmental disorders when they leave the hospital. Prapela developed the Stochastic Vibrotactile Stimulation (SVS), a small mattress that generates vibrations to replace rapid breathing and irregular heart rates. This system is made for hospital bassinets or their baby box for home use. The project has become part of Boston’s Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, secured patents, and won awards from the National Institutes of Health, FDA and multiple children’s hospitals. The $1 million Challenge prize will help Prapela deploy their system in Ohio hospitals, complete research studies and launch a statewide pilot program. Prapela believes it can save Ohio $7 million each year on care for opioid-exposed newborns.

“We will obtain FDA approval for our hospital bassinet pad, complete a sleep study in Ohio and complete a program using SVS products in hospitals and homes across the state,” said John Konsin, co-founder and CEO. “We’re so honored to have the opportunity to help substance-exposed newborns and their amazing caregivers. Ohio and NineSigma are supporting innovations to win the fight against opioids.”

As these Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge winners advance their projects and expand throughout the state, watch for updates from TechOhio on their progress and the impact they’ve made in the fight against drug abuse and addiction.

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