Mobile monitoring devices for alcohol relapse: INTERVIEW with Soberlink

How can a mobile monitoring device really help alcohol relapse prevention? We interview Brad Keays, the CEO and inventor of Soberlink, on this new approach to alcohol relapse prevention using technology.

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Mobile monitoring and alcohol relapse

Have you ever wished that you could keep clients, patients, or loved ones truly accountable for not drinking? Perhaps you can…with better technology. Soberlink is a device currently used in healthcare settings to help with alcohol relapse prevention. How  can this device actually help you monitor alcohol use? Does it really work? Plus, How and why is it better than a regular urine test?

It is our pleasure to speak today with Brad Keays, inventor of the Soberlink device and CEO of the Soberlink company. Find answers to these questions in our following interview.  If you still have questions for Brad or Soberlink reps, feel free to leave them to the comments section at the end.

ADDICTION BLOG: Brad, thank you for talking with us today! At first glance, Soberlink seems like a really helpful device. Can you tell us how this device actually works? Please walk us through the process.

SOBERLINK: Soberlink creates lifestyle friendly technology to help monitor a person’s alcohol addiction in early recovery. Our automated web portal is designed to send daily test reminders to participants and alerts to case managers if there are signs of relapse.

When the client blows into the Soberlink device, it captures their Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC), and confirms their identity using our facial recognition software.  The test data is then instantly sent to our web portal where notifications are triggered if there are signs a client is struggling with their addiction, or that warning signs of a relapse are present.

ADDICTION BLOG: How many times a day should a patient perform a test?

SOBERLINK: Soberlink’s recommendation is to test the client 2-3 times a day. The longer the clients uses Soberlink, the greater their chance for success and continued sobriety. That being said, we recommend making the schedule user-friendly for the client.

The two most important tests are in the early morning and later in the evening. We also think that the client should know their test schedule rather than making it randomized. It’s our opinion, that random testing can lead to missed tests due to schedule conflicts, creating unnecessary anxiety for someone in early recovery. Random testing is the norm for urine testing due to the ease of circumvention, but with Soberlink’s daily testing, the same logic doesn’t apply.

ADDICTION BLOG: Since the test is performed without physical presence of a doctor or nurse, how do you know if the real person is using the device?

SOBERLINK: Both the SL2 and SLBLUE devices have an embedded high-resolution camera that takes a picture of the client during the breath test and uses Facial Recognition software to automatically verify it’s the right client.

ADDICTION BLOG: What happens next if a test result is confirmed positive?

SOBERLINK: If someone tests positive on Soberlink, our system prompts the client to retest in 15 minutes. We call this a confirmation test. Incidental exposure to alcohol will dissipate in 15 minutes, so the follow up test will be clean. The additional data our system provides ensures that counselors are able to decipher the difference between consumption of alcohol versus environmental exposure.

ADDICTION BLOG: There are some products (like mouthwash) that contain traces of alcohol and would probably trigger alcohol positive result – how do you deal with this?

SOBERLINK: Soberlink has yet to find a household product such as mouthwash or hand sanitizer that will give a positive test following a 15-minute waiting period after exposure to these items.

ADDICTION BLOG: Is it a patient’s choice to use Soberlink, or should the device be ordered by a doctor, psychologist, or court judge?

SOBERLINK:  It really depends on the situation.

We do a lot business in the court ordered space, where a Judge, as a condition of the probation, mandates the person to use of Soberlink for a certain period of time.  Our technology is also widely used in Employee Assistance Programs where employers are seeing Soberlink as an alternative to urine alcohol testing.

Our fastest growing segment is in Addiction Treatment, where facilities are using Soberlink in their continued care programs. This is a completely new service for Treatment Centers and Soberlink allows them to engage longer with their clients and have a level of transparency that wasn’t available before.

ADDICTION BLOG: What’s the accuracy level of Soberlink? Do you have any reported malfunctions and how do you fix them?

SOBERLINK: Soberlink uses the same fuel cell technology that’s used in law enforcement and workplace breathalyzers. Although most people using our system are just concerned if the person consumed alcohol or not, you can rest assured our device is giving very accurate BrAC readings.

ADDICTION BLOG: What are the advantages of Soberlink compared to a regular urine-based alcohol monitoring test?

SOBERLINK: For years treatment professionals have relied on urine alcohol testing. While urine testing has seen challenges in terms of accuracy and reliability, it also fails to provide counselors with the necessary real-time knowledge of a relapse. Soberlink’s biggest advantage is the ability to know quickly when a client is struggling with their addiction.

ADDICTION BLOG: What is the impact of this device on families that are living with alcoholism, and on child custody cases?

SOBERLINK: The real-time reassurance sets a new standard for alcohol monitoring during child visitations. The Soberlink system provides peace of mind for the parent who is sharing custody with someone who has an accused addiction. On the flip side, it gives the accused parent the opportunity to prove their sobriety in a discreet and convenient manner.

ADDICTION BLOG: Test results are submitted on a cloud based monitoring web portal: How are do you ensure personal privacy?

SOBERLINK: We realize that customers are required to ensure the confidentiality of patient healthcare data. Our HIPAA compliant web portal ensures patient data is private and secure.

ADDICTION BLOG: How do one purchase the device? What’s the cost?

SOBERLINK: The best way to order a Soberlink device is to visit our website and fill out a contact form or call us. We want to make sure the client is getting the correct device for their needs. A Soberlink Account Manager will answer any questions and put customers in touch with one of our Addiction Treatment Providers or work with the client’s current therapist on the best way to use Soberlink.

ADDICTION BLOG: Do you need a cell phone with a specific plan to use Soberlink? Does it have limited range, or can you use the technology in another country, for example?

SOBERLINK: The SL2 has embedded cellular capabilities and sends test results directly to our web portal via Verizon’s wireless network. The client’s personal mobile phone can be set up to receive Soberlink text reminders when it’s time for them test.

SLBLUE has all the same web portal features, but sends tests through an iPhone or iPad using a free downloadable app. The SLBLUE pairs up with the participant’s Apple device and gives the option of sending tests through Wi-Fi or a cell connection. SLBLUE is a smart choice for Apple users who might not have great cell coverage or live/travel internationally. SLBLUE also has the convenience of a 30-day battery life with normal use compared to a 5 day battery life for the cellular model, SL2.

ADDICTION BLOG: Do you have anything to add for our readers?

SOBERLINK: Aftercare monitoring has proven to improve outcomes, but generally only implemented with licensed professional programs (i.e. physicians, pilots) or through mandated monitoring programs.  With the introduction of Soberlink, now anyone in recovery has access to lifestyle friendly technology that can make help make a difference in his or her road to sobriety.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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