Increasing access to effective opioid-addiction care

Centralizing a highly effective opioid-addiction care model into one easy-to-use digital platform

A hand holding a phone with a screen showing a person smiling and the words Dr. Margaret Wells is now joining.

thoughtbot partnered with Groups Recover Together to design and build a user-centric, unified, and sustainable web and mobile app-based platform offering a full suite of medication-assisted treatments for opioid addiction.

About Groups Recover Together

Expanding in-person support to remote care

Groups Recover Together (Groups) delivers medication-assisted treatment and group therapy to over 11,000 sufferers of Opioid Use Disorder in the USA.

Unlike traditional one-to-one therapy, Groups unites people at different stages of recovery for shared learning and accountability. Before 2020, Groups main delivery model was face-to-face, with some tele-medical support for those in rural areas.

Groups switched to a 100% remote care model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering treatment virtually via a combination of spreadsheets, manual text messages, and Ring Central meetings. Groups’ core outcomes stayed constant despite the switch to 100% remote care, with a majority of users feeling as or more supported through telemedicine. 

"It was important to us that our members be a significant input in the design of this platform. That focus on letting our members guide the way has led us to be more thoughtful about how the app can build and foster community, as well as reduce friction in the overall recovery experience. Recovering from opioid addiction is hard enough. We knew we had to build a tool that enhanced and simplified the member experience.”

– Michelle Cartier, VP of Product Management at Groups Recover Together

Illustration from the Group Recover Together design work.

Views of various prototype flows of the Groups Recover app on a gray background.

The Challenge

Friction in the intake process was a primary challenge

Despite these positive results, Groups were concerned that the friction and disjointedness of the intake process might prevent members from accessing the help they need.

During the pandemic, the team had been blown away by how patient their members were with the existing set of disconnected tools. However, they expected that new members would expect a more streamlined experience. The legacy system was also a hassle for Groups staff to use, and these challenges were set to increase as the membership base grew.

At the start of the switch to 100% remote treatment, Groups in-house R&D team was small, consisting of only Michelle Cartier, VP of Product Management. In addition, the team had only recently completed a major optimization of member medical and accounting records to eClinicalWorks (eCW). Michelle identified a need to develop a more streamlined system that could integrate with eCW, so reached out to thoughtbot for a custom solution.

3 views of the Groups Recover app in mobile format on a gray background.

The Solution

We started our engagement by agreeing on design questions

thoughtbot understood the core objective was to simplify the remote treatment experience for both members and clinicians.

Together with Groups we began the engagement by identifying two key design questions: what are the minimum practical-to-deliver features that will improve user experience, and how can we integrate the new platform with Groups’ existing electronic health record (EHR) tool, eCW?

Luckily, the thoughtbot team has a proven process for answering questions such as these, developed over 19 years of helping clients identify the smallest, most meaningful version of an app that can be rapidly launched to users.

Building on Groups’ in-house research, the design process kicked off with a 5-phase Product Design Sprint in November 2020. An MVP app was launched as a eight-month pilot in Kentucky in April 2021. Feedback was gathered from 400 Groups members, informing a second Product Design Sprint in June 2021. After listening carefully to members, the focus of the next iteration of the product would be Progress Tracking, Community, and Needs/Interventions.

Groups’ resulting proprietary platform was launched nationwide as web, iOS, and Android apps in January 2022, with plans to roll out further functionality in the following months.

While designing and developing these solutions, thoughtbot provided technical leadership to Groups, serving as an interim CTO before managing a seamless transition to an in-house team. By March 2022, Jim Harter had been brought in as CTO, managing a team of 2 QA engineers, a tech lead, and 6 developers.

Overview of the different screens built for Groups Recover Together. Showing mobile app screens and web app dashboard screens.

The Outcome

Sustainable growth and impactful recovery care

The project between thoughtbot and Groups achieved the aim of simplifying the remote treatment experience for users.

Self-scheduling, outreach, forms, payment, treatment planning, and group therapy are now all managed through one cloud-based platform, which is integrated with Groups existing EHR system, eCW. This new platform also serves as the backend of a web-based care team portal and iOS and Android apps.

Feedback from all user groups has been incredibly positive. As one member reflected, “You live in such a disorganized way through addiction that it’s refreshing to have some things a little simpler.” The platform is also designed to reduce the administrative burden on Groups’ staff, enabling them to focus more on what matters: giving their members the care they need, when they need it.

A cropped view of the Groups Recover dashboard and navigation.

As a result of their expansion into remote-first treatment, Groups’ membership has doubled. With the new platform and product team in place, Groups are all set to sustainably extend their impact, transforming the lives of even more Opioid Use Disorder sufferers across the USA.

Quote by Colleen Nicewicz, CEO of Groups Recover Together

Recovery is a 24/7 commitment, work that extends outside the 1-hour per week treatment window that our members receive at Groups. This app centralizes our highly effective care model onto one easy-to-use platform and allows our members to access the support of the Groups community, wherever and whenever they need to.

A headshot of Colleen Nicewicz

Colleen Nicewicz
CEO of Groups Recover Together

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