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Austin startup HealthEcho aims to upgrade opioid treatment process

Austin American-Statesmen logo Austin American-Statesmen 12/2/2019 By Kara Carlson, Austin American-Statesman

Tracking and treating patients affected by the opioid crisis could get easier in Travis County, with the help of a platform developed by addiction researchers.

Kasey Claborn, founder of Austin-based health technology startup HealthEcho, says her company is working to streamline addiction treatment and health care through a web-based platform that provides ways for patients, clinicians and service care providers to stay connected.

The platform is designed to coordinate care by putting patient tracking, medical records and referrals in a single place. It also offers tools for primary care physicians to screen and access their patients, as well as triage treatment recommendations.

Claborn, an addiction psychologist, is a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, and has been studying technology and mental health. In addiction treatment, there is often little digital connection between the patient, clinician and secondary care, she said,

"It's one of the biggest pain points a lot of social workers and councilors saw," Claborn said. "When patients are referred they get lost in the system and have a hard time navigating."

Claborn said she hopes the platform will help reduce the number of patients that get lost in the system. It's common for patients to start opioid treatment care but never complete it, Claborn said. Her research found nationally only about 7 percent of patients with substance abuse receive care in a given year.

Even for patients that do seek treatment, it can be difficult for physicians to track where these patients go or if they ever make it to the appointment, let alone complete treatment.

"A patient dealing with addiction has a very difficult time navigating the health care system. So what we want to do is try to make this process as easy as possible and create a safety net," Claborn said.

HealthEcho has received funding totaling $830,000 from the National Institutes of Health. The platform began a six-month pilot program in November with CommUnityCare, Integral Care and Dell Seton Hospital. A full product launch is expected to follow, Claborn said.

Claborn said even as technology access has increased, systems for referrals and sharing of medical information has largely remained archaic.

Many medical organizations use electronic medical systems, but records typically are siloed to each individual organization, she said. Patient records are still often transferred over phone, fax or email.

"Mostly it's playing phone tag," Claborn said.

HealthEcho's platform modernizes the sharing, and bridges patient records across multiple organizations to share updates on patient care. It also allows health care professionals the ability to better verify who the information is going to and access data, she said.

For example, a patient could start with their primary care physician, who could refer them to a hospital or treatment center. As long as patient releases the information, anyone involved with the care would be able to follow up and track the patients treatment, Claborn said. It also puts all the patients treatments in one place, reducing the need to wait to verify what medications they are on or treatments they have seen.

The platform will be used in Travis County for now as it conducts its pilot program, but Claborn said she sees it having the ability to have wider impact. Pricing for the platform has not yet determined, she said, but the product will be offered to health care professionals and providers upon launch.

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