About Woebot Labs
Woebot Labs developed a smartphone-based chatbot to deliver cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to people with anxiety and depression and are currently using a National Institute on Drug Abuse small business innovation research (SBIR) grant to test the effectiveness of this tool for people with substance use disorders. Given the high levels of anxiety people are feeling over COVID-19, Woebot’s team quickly adapted their tool to deliver encouragement, guided meditations, advice for avoiding cabin fever, and support for people experiencing loss or grief during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also developed a slimmed-down, Web-based version of their tool enabling users to get immediate access without needing to use an app; it is being translated into Italian to help users in one of the hardest-hit countries outside the US.
A small silver lining of the COVID-19 cloud is that it has led to increased flexibility about medication prescribed to those suffering from an opioid use disorder (OUD). People in rural areas, for example, generally have difficulty getting treatment with buprenorphine for OUD because of limited access to clinics with providers waivered to prescribe this medication. But the federal government has now suspended the requirement of an in-person consultation prior to initiating a patient on buprenorphine; a virtual consultation is now sufficient. This has made telehealth-only prescribing of buprenorphine possible, expanding the reach of patients that can benefit from it.