Wearable biosensors to evaluate opioid use in chronic opioid users in the emergency department setting
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BACKGROUND: It is well known that those taking chronic opioid pain medications often become tolerant to the medications and require escalating doses over time (Drewes, 2017). No objective method to identify tolerance currently exists. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to determine the usability and feasibility of a wearable biosensor technology to determine a transition point between opioid naivety and tolerance. METHODS: Participant’s were recruited in the Emergency Department setting and were being admitted with a treatment plan that includes opioid analgesics. Participants were instructed to wear the sensor at all times and to ‘tag’ the sensor when opioid pain medications were administered. This data was analyzed for trends and changes in sensor data before and after opioid administration. Research staff also conducted formative interviews during and after hospital admission to gather information on the participants’ perception of the wearable biosensor and of opioid tolerance. RESULTS: The sample included 17 participants who received, on average, 21.2 morphine equivalents per day during admission. Over 90% of participants stated that they would wear the sensor again, and 70% would even wear two. Data analysis from the E4 biosensor indicated a difference between baseline physiological signaling and post-opioid administration. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, feasibility of wearable mHealth technology was assured, and the preliminary findings of the biosensor data suggest that the features from activity data at different axes can predict opioid use. Future studies will evaluate the development of tolerance among these participants.