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Terry McLeod of ehrSIO ProjectsehrSIO Projects
A blog about the technical and software sides of mental health and addictions

SmartPhones In Addiction Treatment

Terry McLeod Updated: Feb 24th 2011

I hope I have been proven wrong...

Recently I looked into SmartPhones in medical use, and commented that I felt the applications were not ready for prime time, and that I hoped that somebody could prove me wrong as to the reason why: security. If it was me, I'd want effective security that my communications over the SmartPhone were going to the person I directed them to, and would not be intercepted by somebody else.

SmartPhoneWell, the proof hasn't come to me yet, and I must share that it may be on the way in the form of ACHESS , a SmartPhone app for alcoholism and addiction treatment. A study is under way for ACHESS that will test its features from "panic buttons" to GPS locators helping consumers get peer and professional support when they are experiencing cravings or have wandered into the wrong place to stay clean and sober.

ACHESS, or Addiction CHESS, is being tested in the field right now, and we'll know the outcome in a few months.

I like the ideas that form the foundation of the app and how it's used.

  • When a consumer feels a craving to use, or her sobriety is jeopardized, hit the "panic button" in the app and you can be connected to somebody who can help overcome that craving

  • If a consumer has a tendency to drift into "old playpens" to connect with "old playmates" and abandon sobriety, the GPS tracking can help peers or professionals offer relapse intervention, simply because they know the habits of the consumer and locations of past usage of alcohol and substances

  • When somebody new to sobriety doesn't know what "tool" to use (phone call, breathing, mindfulness, prayer, etc), the consumer can consult the app for an effective way to overcome dangers to sobriety

  • An approach to presenting tools tailored to the consumer instead of a "one size fits all" can improve the effectiveness of the treatment and encourage consumers to make choices for sobriety

Still, I wonder about security. I reviewed the ACHESS web site, discovering that current iterations of the product are primarily for the home computer, for which SSL and a few quite good security solutions like Citrix are about as effective as you're going to get. The problem with the SmartPhone is that it's wireless, and if your messages go out into the ether without some sort of scrambling called encryption, there is a high likelihood they could be intercepted. Addiction treatment has long been concerned with protecting the identity and treatment records of consumers in treatment, and that's not about to change.

I looked, I called, and I emailed, and still have no answer to this concern...then again, the test is just beginning, and the answer to that question is forthcoming.

...more to come.


Terry McLeod

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a required part of our society, and improving business workflows with the EHR is imperative for the survival of your local mental health and addictions treatment clinics. Terry McLeod provides the bridge between the mental health and addictions professional and the technical world, as well as the glue to keep it working. Contact McLeod at and get more information from his website and blog,

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