Another not-for-profit social agency operating in and around Waterloo Region has found a way to deliver better service and maximize its resources thanks to technology designed by a local startup.

Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, which helps people suffering from drug addiction manage withdrawal and reboot their lives, has adopted an app designed by Waterloo Region startup Preemptive that has fundamentally changed the way it delivers services – reducing risk, allowing caseworkers to do more, while markedly improving the experience for those the organization aims to help.

“I just didn’t think it was possible that this one app could make such a significant difference in terms of implementing, delivering and running a program for the people that we serve,” says Stonehenge Executive Director Heather Kerr.

“It’s pretty profound.”

The Preemptive app takes advantage of the fact that virtually everyone now has a smartphone. Clients undergoing withdrawal download the app to their phone and then use it to check in each day with their caseworker. With a few touches, clients are able to quickly and clearly let the Stonehenge staff know how they’re managing their withdrawal symptoms. The app is able to interact with the user based on their responses, giving guidance about whether or not to seek additional medical help or to carry on as they were.

Meanwhile, at the caseworker end, Stonehenge staff are able to access a dashboard that allows them to quickly assess the status of each client in their care, flagging those who haven’t checked in or those who need help. A Stonehenge worker has a caseload of up 25 people at one time undergoing withdrawal.

“There needs to be daily contact,” Kerr says. “Their symptoms need to be monitored.

“[The app is] a way of engaging all those clients in a very efficient way. It’s a way of immediately getting feedback. And it’s a great system for getting feedback to the person using the app.”

The genesis of the Preemptive-Stonehenge partnership was a Google-sponsored collision day two years ago for the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network and facilitated by Elliot Fung, the LHIN’s Executive Lead, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships.

“We had 95 per cent of the needed functionality when they came to us,” says Joseph Puopolo, Preemptive’s CEO.

“When we connected with Stonehenge, the application was very simple. They were managing many people going through withdrawal. The number of case workers they had was dwarfed by the number of people they service. They needed a mechanism for people to check in on a daily basis.”

Stonehenge, based in Guelph, has 65 employees, and provides services for Guelph as well as Waterloo Region. It has 43 beds for residential addiction treatment but recently received funding to offer withdrawal management services out in the community, as well.

“We had a mandate to spread a brand new service across the whole LHIN with only three workers,” says Kerr. “We thought: How on earth are we going to do that?

Enter Preemptive and its technology.

Puopolo is a Kitchener-based serial entrepreneur who has an additional window on the work that Stonehenge does through his wife, Laura, who is a doctor.

“I hear stories first hand of the impact of addiction,” says Puopolo. “I see the emotional burden it takes on [Laura]. The need is great. The need is significant. The number of people who come in as a result [of drug use or withdrawal symptoms] to the emergency room is significant. The number of ancillary health-related issues as a result of addiction are significant.

“So it became a bit of a personal thing and when the opportunity presented itself we ran at it full tilt.”

The Stonehenge-Preemptive experience is reminiscent of that realized by Shore Centre, Waterloo Region’s planned parenthood agency, which recently teamed up with a local tech company called Zeitspace on an app that has revolutionized the way Shore Centre delivers services.

For Stonehenge, the app has been such a success that it’s looking at building out increased functionality and expanding its use.

“We have increased client engagement, reduced stigma, increased capacity for our staff and reduced risk,” says Kerr.

“That changes everybody’s experience.”

Originally Posted on Communitech News on May 17, 2018