eRecovery app trial

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre’s (NJC) trial of eRecovery, an alcohol and drug relapse prevention app, is part of this quiet revolution in drug and alcohol treatment. 

eRecovery is a smartphone app that provides 24/7 access to support services, customised content, ways to avoid risky situations, and an easy way to reach out for help when a client is in crisis. We're using it in conjunction with our traditional alcohol and other drug (AOD) support services and testing how the app improves clinical care.

We’re the first court in Australia to trial this approach., and we're  interested in testing eRecovery’s effectiveness in preventing relapse and harm and also as a tool for clinicians to better support AOD clients.

The trial began in February 2019 and the University of Melbourne is our research partner.

To find out more about the trial and what we’ve learnt so far, watch this 5-minute film.

Lessons from the trial so far

We recently conducted a progress review to see how things are tracking and here’s a snapshot of our findings.

  • eRecovery alongside traditional AOD support can improve the client’s experience.
  • The app’s communication features are the most popular features.
  • Clients and clinicians like how easy it is to manage appointments and medication regimes, and clients like managing their treatment plans and using personalised motivational reminders in difficult moments.
  • Many of our clients lead chaotic lives and find the app helps them to structure their day. We’ll investigate further how eRecovery can instil greater organisation in people’s lives.
  • As smartphones are so embedded into our daily lives, receiving treatment via a phone app appears to make treatment more palatable.

Clinicians are benefitting from:

  • more focused and informed face-to-face sessions. Appointments with clients are more focused on therapy than assessment as clinicians are better informed about clients’ progress through the app and the rich data it provides
  • improved communications and the quick overview of their client’s progress between appointments
  • sending medication reminders and drawing on the additional data to inform treatment
  • more nuanced support. For instance, a participant eluded to an interest in spirituality, and this opened a line of exploration which otherwise would not have been explored in a standard consultation.

Challenges

We’ve had a few challenges.

  • One participant is homeless and was charging his phone off his car battery. We now have a phone charging station in our building to assist anyone in the community.
  • We found that English spoken as a second language makes filling in the diary function difficult.
  • And though we were excited by the GPS location feature, which provides users with warnings if they’re entering one of their high-risk areas, some clients feared we’d track their movements. It’s important to make it very clear that this feature is optional. Conversely, other clients love the feature and find it helps make them more effective in managing their own risk.
  • We’ve also started hosting SMART Recovery sessions at the Centre for anyone who needs help with any type of addiction, and we anticipate this will help us attract more community clients
  • We localised content to make it a fit for Australian culture, but we’d planned to do this work all along.
  • A number of candidates didn’t see value in the app, and some weren’t comfortable with or didn’t trust technology, so declined to participate. It won’t suit everyone as the way people use technology is very individual.

Next steps

The trial runs until February 2021. We'll provide updates at  milestones as the project progresses so stay tuned.

For more information contact Freddy Densley: frederica.densley@courts.vic.gov.au (External link)