Verily's OneFifteen rehab campus ramps up telehealth as opioid overdoses rise

Telehealth consultation
To expand access to services during the pandemic, Verily's OneFifteen ramped up telehealth services to ensure those needing addiction services do not experience a gap in care. (Getty/AndreyPopov)

A year ago, Verily partnered with Premier Health and Kettering Health Network to open a tech-enabled addiction treatment center in Dayton, Ohio.

Verily, the life sciences arm of Google-parent company Alphabet, said it was building OneFifteen as a "learning health system" for addiction and rehabilitation that aims to address a critical information gap in addiction medicine.

The OneFifteen campus, which opened in July 2019, is named for the 115 people who died each day from opioid overdoses in the U.S. in 2017.

As a partner, Verily is responsible for technology infrastructure, data collection and analytical capabilities that will enable clinicians to continuously improve treatment based on real-time feedback, the company said.

OneFifteen combines science, technology, clinical learning and health system partnerships to advance the care of people living with addiction, said Jessica Mega, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer at Verily Life Sciences, speaking during a Fortune Brainstorm Health virtual event Tuesday.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an alarming spike in drug overdoses, less than a year after the Trump administration touted decreases in the nation’s overdose epidemic.

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A May 13 report tracking nationwide overdose data found that suspected overdoses rose nearly 16.6% this year, based on a 30-day rolling mean comparison of January through April 2019 compared to the same period in 2020.

The data are based on the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program surveillance information.

Data show an 11.4% increase in fatal overdoses during the same time frame and an 18.6% increase in nonfatal overdoses, said Mega.

More than 30 states are reporting increases in opioid-related mortality, she said.

To expand access to services during the pandemic, OneFifteen ramped up telehealth services to ensure those needing addiction services do not experience a gap in care while following social distancing guidelines, Mega said.

Telehealth services were always part of OneFifteen's road map, but the organization accelerated its plans to better serve patients, she said.

"In particular when it comes to medication-assisted treatment, to get services to those who need it, we looked at how do you reach those who are most at need. Working on this program, we're adapting telehealth services with much success," Mega said.

The work to support OneFifteen is part of Verily's efforts to address both the "seen and unseen pain" of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

The Trump administration has relaxed regulatory barriers during the pandemic to enable patients to have access to virtual treatment for substance use disorder, mental health and other services.

While those waivers are only temporary through the public health emergency,  two senators, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, introduced last week legislation that would make permanent certain emergency actions passed during the coronavirus pandemic to boost telehealth access for substance use disorder treatment.

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During the pandemic, there are hidden health emergencies including mental health and opioid use disorders, Mega said.

"It is going to take a convergence of humanity and technology to address both the seen and unseen pain of the pandemic," she said.

Verily also has worked through its Project Baseline initiative to scale out COVID-19 testing that provides a connected online solution to support individuals from screening to in-person testing at community-based sites.

Since launching March 15, Verily has expanding testing sites to 13 states with 320,000 tests completed.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. Testing needs to continue to expand and it will take unique partnerships and governments working with industry and other healthcare providers to make a difference," she said.

Verily also worked with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to launch a COVID-19 research program specifically for healthcare workers. The initiative, called the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) Registry, aims to engage healthcare workers directly to understand their needs and help set national priorities.

The HERO registry also aims to push forward rapid-cycle research that will enable better testing and protective medications or vaccines.

Verily's Baseline Platform is providing the technology base for the HERO registry and clinical trial.