By Michael Rass
The intensive outpatient program, or IOP, has long been a way to treat addiction where a longer stay at a residential treatment program was not necessary or possible and as a step down from more intensive treatment as individuals transition back into the community. IOPs have proven to be a successful part of a continuous care program and are designed to provide psychological, behavioral, and social support therapies to people while they remain to live at home. This allows patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) and other addictions to continue participating in their daily affairs, such as work, and then participate in treatment at an appropriate facility in the morning or at the end of the day.
For a variety of reasons, however, this level of participation may still be prohibitive for some patients. They could be living in remote areas with long commutes to treatment facilities available in their area. They might be patients constrained by parental obligations for their children. They might be looking for a more discreet form of treatment. They need a smarter IOP.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment Redefined
In the 21st century, people with illnesses don’t have to travel to a clinic in all cases anymore. Treatment providers increasingly connect with patients online. Efforts to adopt telemedicine services continue to be a priority for providers, according to a recent report by New Sage Growth Partners. Fifty-six percent of healthcare leaders surveyed reported that their facilities have implemented telemedicine while most non-adopters have made implementation a priority.
Telemedicine is not necessarily just a substitute for face-to-face medical appointments. For many patients it can be the superior option.
Smart IOP is the first online intensive outpatient program licensed by the State of Virginia. “Its client-centered program uses digital devices to bring a highly effective level of treatment to patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues,” says Eric Rhodes, the director of product development at Smart IOP. “It was developed by licensed and certified professionals to treat the whole person to produce a sustained recovery from addiction.”
Support Through More Intensive Learning
Smart IOP provides 72 hours of education, so patients can absorb a lot of important information about the disease of addiction and how it is affecting them. They can learn at their own pace and in many different locations. A client needs to travel on business? No problem. She can bring her digital device along and complete units when it’s convenient. A patient must take care of a sick child? He can finish the lesson some other time. Like other online learning, Smart IOP is very flexible with scheduling.
Telehealth is Actually More Personal
Not everybody has practical IOP options nearby. While traditional IOPs allow patients to continue living at home, Smart IOP allows clients to do the therapy itself at home. No stressful commute is required. The therapy itself is focused much more on the needs of the individual with fewer group sessions. Smart IOP provides twice the amount of one-on-one therapy compared with other IOPs. That enables therapist and patient to address the root causes of the addiction more effectively. In some cases, it allows patients to participate who are worried that showing up in person in a group setting is not discreet enough for their professional circumstances.
Supported by a smart Sponsor
Another big advantage over the standard IOP setup is the Smart Sponsor. This is a person selected by the patient—typically a friend or family member—who supports her during her time in the Smart IOP. The sponsor will verify progress with the case manager, develop trust as the primary sober support, and accompany the patient to weekly support group meetings. This is the only offline part of the Smart IOP program. Patients also need to submit to regular sobriety checks with their Smart Sponsor.
Smart IOP is more flexible, more informative and more affordable than traditional IOPs. Understanding the nature of addiction is key—for everybody involved in the recovery of the identified patient. Sponsors participate in activities and education with clients to provide a stronger and more active support role. Educating members of your support network is critical for continued recovery once the Smart IOP has been completed.
Technology Increases Accountability and Analytics
Smart IOP technology does not only deliver educational material and therapy sessions, it also promotes accountability of the patient by including regular drug and alcohol tests. In addition, the platform monitors attendance at local support group meetings and keeps track of education progress and notes by therapists.
An important extra for Smart IOP clients is the wearable device to monitor wellness aspects of recovery. It is well known that exercise can help people with SUDs achieve, sustain, and support their recovery process, both short and long term. Many residential rehab programs include physical exercise in their daily routine. Because fitness is such an important aspect of recovery, Smart IOP has integrated it into the intensive outpatient level of care.
Therapists can use qualitative and quantitative reporting, including wellness-related metrics, to track clients’ progress in the program. Improvement is tracked through smart IOP and verified by the sponsor. Most participants finish the program within 6–12 weeks.