Confidential Virtual Addiction Treatment for Healthcare Workers
Providing healthcare workers with access to confidential virtual care and evidence-based treatment options for substance use
Project Budget*- $1.0M
Partner Co-investment - $0.2M
Supercluster Co-investment - $0.8M
COVID-19 comes with multiple health concerns for Canadians, especially for our frontline healthcare workers. Outside of the risks from the virus itself, essential workers are grappling with fatigue, stress, anxiety and isolation.
Signs of increased substance use disorders (SUD) have been detected in the wake of COVID-19 and there is concern among employers and unions that SUD could increase significantly among healthcare workers as a result of the unprecedented demands they are facing. In addition, healthcare workers with an SUD may experience barriers to treatment as a result of stigma or guilt associated with working in the health profession.
The Confidential Virtual Addiction Treatment for Health Care Workers project helps tackle these challenges through access to confidential virtual care and evidence-based treatment options for substance use issues.
The project is led by ALAViDA in collaboration with Fraser Health Authority, the BC Nurses Union, the Hospital Employees’ Union, the Health Sciences Association of BC, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Benefits By Design, Pacific Blue Cross, and the Healthcare Benefit Trust.
A confidential, digital treatment program powered by an AI companion engages with individuals. It builds trust and educates users about key evidence-based strategies to reduce the harms associated with problematic use of drugs and alcohol. Workers interact with the virtual tool on their smartphone – anytime, anywhere – for 15 to 90 days, depending on their care needs.
The programming focuses on specific challenges faced by healthcare workers – an approach that can be adapted for other employee groups in the future.
The platform is a non-judgmental, positive space for working proactively on SUD solutions. The tool is available to workers who are on leave as well as to employees who are seeking guidance on early intervention. For workers seeking additional or more intensive care, the platform also serves as a connection point to specialized options, including pharmacotherapy and counselling.
In addition, the project team is measuring the effectiveness of an AI companion as a form of peer support for substance use disorder, and big data will measure treatment outcomes. This research can be useful as Canada grapples with the opioid crisis and seeks best practices in virtual healthcare.