Digital Health for the Opioid Crisis: A Historical Analysis of NIH Funding from 2013 to 2017

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En-Ju Lin, PHD, MPH
Madeleine Schroeder, MS
Yungui Huang, PHD, MBA
Simon Lin Linwood, MD, MBA


Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the opioid crisis was the major public health challenge ravaging economies and communities across the United States. Digital health offered new ways to reach, diagnose, and treat individuals with opioid use disorders. Federal research funding usually reflects the nation’s research priorities and shapes the direction of innovation. We reviewed funded projects by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) from 2013 to 2017, a period leading to the substantial increase in federal funding and the launch of the $500M HEAL (Helping End Addiction Long-TermSM) initiative in 2018. We presented our viewpoint of the research landscape of the digital health development for the opioid crisis. Overall, there was a gradual increase in NIDA grant funding for technology in the opioid crisis and the percentage of NIDA technology awards funding new projects had nearly doubled in that period. We categorize the types of applications and potential challenges in five emerging technology categories: electronic health, mobile health, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and biosensor. Diversification of funding in these categories offers the promise of more innovation in new technologies to combat the opioid epidemic.


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Chapter 3