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Technology and Community Join Forces to Increase Naloxone Distribution

There's no denying we're in the midst of a national crisis that's affecting every American community regardless of color, income, education, employment status or age. Every day approximately 175 people die of an opioid-related overdose.

This is a guest blog post from a team that participated in the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon.

There's no denying we're in the midst of a national crisis that's affecting every American community regardless of color, income, education, employment status or age. Every day approximately 175 people die of an opioid-related overdose. Every day. Given the incredible damage being ravaged upon our neighborhoods, families, schools and workplaces, the National Opioid Action Coalition (NOAC), and one of its corporate members, Lowekey, have committed to leveraging technology to make a positive impact on this national epidemic. By leveraging the power of mobile technology, the resources of partner and government organizations, and individuals in the community, this team is working to expand the availability of naloxone, the life-saving opioid overdose antidote.

Two women and a man at a table, coders at the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon
The Minus O team working at the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon

What is it?

Last year's HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon, gave our team a look into the many rich data assets at HHS and showed the public and the Department what innovative solutions can be developed when the public and the private sector come together. One of those ideas came in the form of our mobile app Minus O.

Minus O is a mobile app that has three main purposes as it relates to the opioid crisis; expanding accessibility and distribution of naloxone, connecting people who may be abusing opioids with treatment resources, and collecting and analyzing data to aid health organizations and first responders in learning more about the epidemic's impact in specific areas. The app is designed and developed by the team at New York based mobile design firm Lowekey (www.lowekey.com) led by CEO Gregory Lowe II.

"The effect Opioid overdoses have had on my home state of Ohio has been devastating, at Lowekey we felt it was our calling to leverage mobile technology to do something about it," said Mr. Lowe.

The app, along with support from pharmaceutical and corporate partners, allows lay-persons to register as "responders," allowing them to receive and carry a free dose of naloxone. Additionally, friends and family members of an individual who may be abusing opioids are able to download the app (anonymously) and use it's pulsating "SOS" beacon to request assistance from a "responder" should they need naloxone in a rescue situation. Through the app and corporate funding of supply, Minus O creates a "justice league" for opioid overdose victims.

Designing the app

There are two user-scenarios for the app - "responders," represented with a gradient blue-green color and "requestors," identified with a gradient red. The color selection is intentional, with the responder colors symbolizing stability and trust and the requestor interface signaling urgency and caution. This color scheme is consistent throughout the app making it easy for users to know what type of action is happening - especially important in a medical emergency situation.

With any design project offering a solution, there are 5 steps that are adopted during development; empathy/understanding the problem, research, wireframes, visual design, and testing. The most important phase in designing Minus O was the research phase where the Lowekey team had to adopt the concept of "user centered design," keeping in the forefront the user's state of mind when interacting with this particular app.

The team spent half of the research phase brainstorming concepts, and in the process came to understand the opioid epidemic more deeply. They worked with a fellow NOAC member, Brenda Zane, who provided first-person experience after her son suffered two Fentanyl overdoses and was rescued both times with Narcan. Her "ground level" insights and understanding of the user environment provided the team with actionable steps that could be built into the design.

"We used the Logo as a starting point for the overall look and feel of the app," said lead designer Alaere Jituboh. We aimed to create a logo that portrayed the help we wanted to offer - more so become a "beacon" of hope in the midst of a devastating crisis. The concept explores symbolism and the psychology of color. The logo is comprised of a simple sans-serif font and a stylized "O" made up of two orange rings and a white dash in the center - orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow, which often is associated with the feeling of encouragement and stimulation, and white being a ray of light and hope.

Connecting to resources

With the initial goal of extending the availability of naloxone accomplished, the team wanted to ensure that users would also have immediate access to treatment and other crisis resources though the app. Lowekey and Zane will be working at a regional level to implement links and access to both state and private resources which will be geo-targeted to the user's location. This allows those individuals surrounding an overdose victim to actively seek help at the time when it's most critical - the 24-48 hours post-overdose when opioid users are at higher risk for relapse and additional overdoses.

Piloting the program

In partnership with Ms. Zane and Cole & Weber, a WPP agency in Seattle, the NOAC team and Lowekey are preparing for mid-year (2018) pilot launch in three high-need counties in Washington State. They are in the final stages of securing naloxone funding and distribution and creating a media-backed awareness campaign to expand the program's footprint and gain widespread adoption. The goal is to reach a 1% saturation rate of responders in these counties in order to collect the necessary and actionable data to further curb the rate of opioid overdose deaths. Once baseline data and results are collected the team will expand the program to other high-need areas across the country.

For additional information please contact:

Gregory Lowe [email protected]

Brenda Zane 206.261.8119

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Health Data