Boston-based behavioral analytics firm Pretaa announced Tuesday a partnership with Fitbit to provide data-driven support tools on the wrist for people battling addiction.
Pretaa has partnered with Fitbit, the wearables company owned by Google, to build special support features into Fitbit’s products, such as if users feel ok to call a clinical caregiver (or friend, support group sponsor, or family member) if they have a relapse Danger.
Karen Romans, a former social worker who leads the partnership at Fitbit, said people with addiction who come out of therapy are leaving a highly structured and heavily supervised environment. “They’ve been in a facility that doesn’t allow them to have cell phones and other things, and in some ways they’ve been told what they can and can’t do for their own benefit during that time,” Romans said. “So they Going out, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s start giving you more control again.'” For those trying to stay away from drugs, the transition from therapy to real life is a daunting prospect. They need a lifeline.
While Pretaa technology offers Fitbit wearers a quick way to seek support, it also uses sensors on the device to give treatment center clinicians a much-needed window into a patient’s health after release.
“[We’re] Looking at data from Fitbit, including heart rate, steps, oxygen levels, body temperature, and more, we’re looking for anomalies in that data,” said Pretaa CEO Michael Madon. “We’re running it through our machine learning engine. . . and say, ‘What’s wrong here? Combine this person’s data. “
For example, if a patient’s heart rate suddenly spiked to 120 beats per minute, and their low step count indicated that the rise was not the result of exercise, the model might infer that the wearer was abusing drugs. Madon told me that this information can be sent directly to the user’s medical record as a PDF file, which can be accessed immediately by the caregiver. If the data show clear signs that the patient may be turning to abuse and addiction, the patient’s caregiver may decide to lend a hand.
Because of the privacy concerns inherent in such monitoring, Madon and Romans stress that information is only transferred if the patient agrees to use it as part of their post-discharge treatment plan.
Users can take surveys on their phone or Fitbit device to report their progress or mental health updates, and they can receive positive affirmations from their caregivers.
On recent Fitbit wearables, like the Versa 3 smartwatch, there’s a Pretaa watch face with a small “P” icon that the wearer can tap to connect directly with a caregiver or family member.
Madon said his company plans to use location data on users’ phones as another possible sign of danger. “It’s going to be geo-fencing, so when patients are being treated, they’re often sharing areas where they go to buy or use medication or areas that are causing them anxiety, and those areas are often captured by treatment centers,” he said.
So, with the patient’s consent, that information can go into the Pretaa platform, which can notify clinical support staff if their mobile phone detects that they have entered one of these danger zones. Madon said the geofencing feature will appear next year.
The Fitbit/Pretaa platform will begin rolling out to treatment centers in California this month. Such centers typically pay a flat fee to care for patients by insurers, so they have a financial interest in ensuring patients don’t relapse and need to be readmitted, Madon said.
Pretaa and Fitbit emphasized that it is up to patients to choose which features of the platform to use and which data on their wrists to share with caregivers and family.Where can we do that,” Madden said. “With [addiction] The pandemic has just hit, and people are really feeling it on a very visceral, personal level, and we have to step up and make all the technology available to us — and make it work for those who are trying to help. “