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  • NHRC Developing Mobile App to Help Prevent Prescription Medication Misuse

    SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Staff at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) have begun the second phase of development for a smartphone application aimed at preventing prescription medication misuse by military personnel in support of force health readiness.

    Service members who have been injured or suffer from chronic pain are often prescribed pain medication during recovery and rehabilitation. Pain management is an important part of the healing process, but it may also create the potential for prescription medication misuse. In an effort aimed at prevention, researchers at NHRC are part of a collaborative effort funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop a mobile tool to educate and inform service members about prescription medications and assess the potential for misuse.
    "The idea for the app is to provide Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen with information on prescription drugs and prevent inadvertent misuse," said Capt. Kim Lefebvre, executive officer at NHRC and Navy pharmacist.
    According to Lefebvre, the app is intended to support patients in situations where they do not have immediate access to their health care providers, but have questions about appropriate use of their prescription medication.
    "A patient may find that their prescribed dose of medication is not controlling their pain or they may be uncertain about whether or not they can take another medication in addition to their prescribed one," said Lefebvre. "In these situations, the app can help support the patient's decision-making process by providing education and resources about medication interactions, risk behaviors that can lead to addition, and more, but it is not intended to replace the expertise of a health care provider. The app supports the Military Health System's initiatives to provide patient-centered care and engage patients in their own health care."
    Researchers at NHRC developed the app to create an evidence-based tool that will reduce the risk of prescription drug misuse by enhancing education about prescription medication and individual risk. The app is designed to take advantage of the ubiquity of smartphones and will make information about prescription medications immediately accessible. 
    Phase one of app development tested usability, which included feedback from Sailors and Marines who were asked to perform specific tasks in each of the app's modules: 
    • Assessment -- Evaluates individual factors related to prescription drug misuse
    • My Meds -- Allows users to enter their current medications
    • Feedback -- Shows user risk level based on the assessments, along with specific recommendations to reduce risk
    • Practice -- Provides different scenarios designed to help users build skills to effectively manage situations related to prescription medication use
    • Learn -- Contains educational information related to prescription drug misuse
    • Resources -- Provides links to military and civilian resources with information and support for pain management, prescription drug disposal, medication interactions, and substance abuse.
    "As we enter the second phase of the app development we will be working on enhancing the app based on the user feedback we received during phase one," said Suzanne Hurtado, NHRC principal investigator whose team partnered in the development of and led testing for the beta app. "Overall, the app was positively received and we gathered valuable feedback during initial testing that will help us improve functionality, make it more user-friendly, and most importantly, contribute to reducing prescription medication misuse and abuse."
    As the Department of Defense's premier deployment health research center, NHRC's cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation's armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active-duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.
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