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Digital Recovery Support Services

Written by Robert Ashford, MSW, PhD-C
Published on November 13, 2020

Digital Recovery Support Services (D-RSS) are recovery support services (RSS) that are delivered via technological platforms such as smartphone applications (or “apps”), websites and forums, and social network sites and networking platforms. D-RSS are not virtual, but rather consist of real-world activities and services delivered through online channels. As a set of services and resources, RSS often fall into the domains of education, employment, housing, social/peer support, and continuing care, intended to improve the functioning and wellness of individuals. D-RSS fit within the broader array of these more traditional in vivo (i.e., face-to-face) RSS, though they exist entirely within the digital domain.

D-RSS have been identified as easy to implement, expand, and responsive to distinct community needs - perhaps reducing barriers related to environmental and social domains (e.g., transportation, child care, etc.) Though 11% of US adults in recovery reported any lifetime use, recent evidence does suggest the digital divide is changing and that many individuals have the ability to access D-RSS. It is plausible that prevalence of D-RSS use has greatly increased in the last 3 months given preliminary telehealth and telerecovery data from the field. Limitations and barriers remain though, including the lack of high-speed broadband access as a utility, instead of a commodity. 

What do we need to know for the future of D-RSS? As telerecovery services are the newest entry into the D-RSS space, research is needed into efficacy and utility. D-RSS may be supported by more formal and systematic tools to aid in the delivery of telerecovery services. These should (and many already do) include electronic recovery records, HIPAA-compliant and integrated video, audio, and chat messengers. Some future possibilities include automation and chat bots for screening/referrals, advanced analytics and real-time reporting dashboards. 

As capacity for D-RSS is built, we hope to learn more about which mechanisms of change and engagement that D-RSS promote and improve, what differences in outcomes exist and for whom when comparing in vivo RSS or D-RSS, and how we can continue to promote sound privacy and confidentiality policy in the digital space.

Categories:  SUDI