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UMass Med Center to Use Beacons to Track Naloxone

The hospital will attach Visybl's Bluetooth beacons to packages of the opioid-blocking drug to determine whether patients discard the medication before leaving the premises, and to gauge their willingness to have the medicine tracked.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 17, 2016

When the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Memorial Medical Center treats patients for an opioid overdose, it often sends them home with naloxone in the form of a nasal spray that they can use to counteract the effects of another overdose, should that occur. The medication, also known by the brand name Narcan, is covered by most insurance plans, but doctors have no way of knowing with certainty how far the medication goes with patients on their way home. In some cases, patients may not be convinced they'll need it, and discard the drug before even leaving the hospital. Because the incidence of opioid overdoses continues to rise, the medical center wishes to determine whether its patients take the naloxone home with them.

Next month, the hospital plans to deploy a real-time location system (RTLS), provided by Visybl, to ascertain whether the medication makes it off the campus. The organization will attach Visybl's Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to medication cartons and install CloudNodes (Visybl's BLE gateway devices for capturing beacon transmissions) at the hospital's exit, at a roundabout where cars pass and at the facility's bus stop.

UMass Memorial Medical Center plans to attach a Visybl SlimBeacon to each box of naloxone it distributes.
Naloxone blocks or reverses the effect of heroin and other narcotics. It will not permanently resuscitate a patient, but it will reduce the opioid's effects long enough—for approximately 30 minutes—that someone could then call for assistance and get the patient to the hospital in time to save his or her life. Naloxone can be injected into a muscle, under the skin or into a vein, or it can be administered as a nasal spray using a syringe with an atomizer, explains Peter Chai, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), which is affiliated with the UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Chai leads the naloxone study together with Jeffrey Lai, an emergency medicine physician at the hospital, as well as a medical-toxicology fellow and emergency medicine instructor at UMMS.

The community around the hospital has been stricken with an opioid epidemic in recent years, Chai reports. The frequency of overdoses treated at the facility has been increasing—not only because heroin use has become more prevalent, but also because contaminants in the narcotic have been on the rise as well. When a drug user overdoses, his or her breathing slows down to a dangerously low level and blood vessels constrict. Chai says he sees as many as eight overdoses during the course of a single eight-hour shift.

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