Where Therapeutic Intuition Meets Technology

Faculty; Research

When people are treated for medical conditions, their physician usually monitors the treatment and recovery process based on some type of performance metrics, informed by hard data. However, in clinical programs treating substance use disorders or psychiatric disorders, the treatment and recovery process is monitored exclusively on therapist’s intuition.

A new suite of technology tools developed by David Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, aims to enable addiction and behavioral health professionals to monitor their own treatment services, as well as their patient’s recovery process, using data as their guide.

David Patterson
David Patterson Silver Wolf

Patterson Silver Wolf used his 15 years of experience providing addiction treatment services, along with his experience investigating how to implement evidence-based practices throughout treatment organizations, to partner with local technology professionals in creating the new initiative.

Therapists can enter numeric ratings for a course of treatment, and the tool graphs that patient’s progress or lack thereof. The tool also shows charts, performance metrics, and offers predictive data for best therapist-patient matching. For example, the tool’s machine learning analytics can determine which therapist-patient interaction will have the greatest success based on key variables such as demographics and other data-driven characteristics.

“If you ask any addiction or behavioral health therapist how they measure treatment and recovery performance, their responses center on anecdotal, unreliable information,” Patterson Silver Wolf said.

The first product, PsychoSocial Sync, is being used by professional therapists in a variety of treatment clinics in the St. Louis region. The performance dashboard tool displays key, real-time performance indicators that enable therapists to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment interventions and recovery progress.

One important feature captures key recovery risk and protective data, using both self-reported data and digital biomarkers, from the patient’s smartphones while they are pursuing recovery in their own communities. That data is returned to the therapist’s dashboard, which informs targeted interventions.

The programming effort is led by a team of experts, including Patterson Silver Wolf, in a startup called Takoda. Ken Zheng, a 2014 graduate of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, is on the team, as are programming and information technology security specialists Josh Fischer and Chad Storm.

“With the success of incorporating this new clinical performance dashboard into treatment programs in St. Louis, we are preparing the next suite of technology tools to be launched in order to continue improving treatment services, as well as lower record-keeping and other burdens therapists experience every day,” Patterson Silver Wolf said. “We hope it will not only increase quality but lower overall treatment costs.”

“The PsychoSocial Sync clinical dashboard is a great tool for therapists who have to regularly manage a large caseload of patients,” said Mike Morrison, executive vice president at Preferred Family Healthcare, who has been assisting in the implementation of the new tool. “They are able to see at a moment’s notice how their patients are responding to treatment. This important tool also allows our agency leaders to measure our therapist’s performance.

“These new technologies developed by Patterson Silver Wolf and his team will change our treatment industry more than anything I’ve seen in my 30 years in this business,” he said.

Patterson Silver Wolf and his team aim to introduce further clinical performance monitoring tools to provide predictive insights based on real-time data analytics, as well as process improvements to decrease overall treatment costs in the coming months.