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Researchers Receive $1 Million Grant to Study Digital Screening Intervention Tool for Adolescents and Young Adults

Graphic of the news release

August 26, 2020

Update, Aug. 26, 2020: Despite widespread disruptions caused by COVID-19, this research project recently received approval for its second year of funding, totaling $1 million paid out over two years. While the first year mostly focused on capacity building and cost-benefit analysis at various types of delivery locations, the second year will feature a clinical trial with at least 200 participants, ages 14-24, to analyze the effectiveness of a risk-screening tool in reducing the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Current study sites include the UNC Student Health Center, UNC Psychological Services Clinic and North Colorado Family Medicine-Banner Health.

Early results presented virtually at the National Reproductive Health Conference indicate that the cliexa-OPTIONS holistic screening platform provides additional information regarding sexual risk, with the majority of clinicians finding the screening tool useful and informative.

Implementation at university-based locations appears more seamless when compared to larger scale hospital settings that have the potential for greater recruitment numbers but also more legal and technological requirements. Additionally, rural health settings may be overburdened after initial implementation due to lack of resources and consequently be slower to adopt new technologies. 

Stephen Wright, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and UNC professor of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, said, "We are finding the advantage of using the cliexa digital platform offers a brief screening tool to assess multiple areas related to patient care (e.g., sexual risk, depression, anxiety, resiliency) across medical and mental-health settings. This information can then be utilized by providers to follow up with appropriate testing, treatment and prevention efforts. Additionally, the use of the digital platform has provided us with the flexibility to continue implementing our intervention/protocol through telehealth during COVID-19.”  

With unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections at epidemic proportions among young people, an important study is underway to evaluate an intervention system leveraging the latest technology in clinical settings to foster earlier identification of high-risk adolescents.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded the University of Northern Colorado a $1 million grant to collaborate on the project with cliexa, a digital health technology company based in Denver. The funding supports a trial involving 700 participants, ages 14-24, in clinical settings where cliexa’s risk screening tool (a digital platform and mobile health follow-up program) will be in use. The study sites are the UNC Student Health Center, UNC Psychological Services Clinic and Montrose County Family Planning.

The ground-breaking two-year study, led by principal investigators and UNC professors William Merchant and Stephen Wright, will also assess the effectiveness of deploying the new technology in clinical workflows and the benefits of earlier identification of adolescents at highest risk for adverse health outcomes.

“We will assess the quad aims of patient/provider satisfaction, reduced costs and improved outcomes with this study,” said cliexa-OPTIONS Senior Advisor Dr. Lisa Rue. “We want to empower clinicians and providers to do what they do best—counsel patients and encourage optimal wellness.”

Of Note

The project has available funding for new implementation at Public Health and Federally Qualified Health Care Centers, and Title X Family Planning clinics. Providers who want to take advantage of the available pilot funding can try the innovative cliexa-OPTIONS risk screening tool for free for one year. Contact cliexa-OPTIONS Senior Advisor, Dr. Lisa Rue, at lrue@cliexa.com, to learn more. 

About the Grant

  • Project Title: cliexa-OPTIONS for Integrated Health –Digital Health Technology
  • Grant award: $1 million, July 2019-July 2021
  • Funding Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
  • Researchers: Principal investigators Will Merchant (associate professor of Applied Statistics and Research Methods), Stephen Wright (professor of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education), and Investigator Lisa Rue (cliexa-OPTIONS Senior Advisor).
  • Of note: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of new STDs reported each year are among youth ages 15-24. …The digital sexual health risk assessment tool identities up to 50% more high risk individuals than traditional screening.