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An app to support provider intervention for patients with substance use disorders




As part of a clinical research project, the app HealthCall was created as a supplement to brief provider intervention.



Heavy drinking among people living with HIV worsens their health outcomes and disrupts their HIV care. Although brief interventions to reduce heavy drinking in primary care are effective, more extensive intervention may be needed, and lengthy interventions are not realistic in most HIV primary care settings. Utilizing smartphone technology, we developed the HealthCall app to provide continued engagement after brief intervention, reduce drinking, and improve other aspects of HIV care with minimal demands on providers.

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The Research Process

As study coordinator, I recruited alcohol-dependent patients living with HIV (n = 114) from a large urban HIV clinic. HealthCall involved daily use of the smartphone app (3–5 min/day) to report drinking and health in the prior 24h. Outcomes were assessed at 30 and 60 days, and at 3, 6 and 12 months, which included drinks per drinking day and number of drinking days, analyzed with generalized linear mixed models and pre-planned contrasts.

Note: overall app design has been modified for copyright reasons.



At 30-days, the reduction in drinks per day was 38% greater among users in brief therapeutic intervention (CG) + use of HealthCall than among users with CG only. At 6-months, intervention ended, with interview follow-up with users for another 6 months.

By 12-months, users in CG + HealthCall had a 29% greater reduction in drinks per day than patients in CG-only, showing a later benefit of CG + HealthCall.

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User Feedback and Painpoints

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At the end of the intervention using the HealthCall app, I asked users a series of questions via in-person interview. They were asked questions such as:

What did you like about the app?

What did you dislike about the app?

What would you change about the app?

What would you keep the same?

What helped you remember to use the app?

What made it hard to remember to use the app?

Further data analysis based on responses to these questions will be completed to guide future iterations of the app.

If you'd like to read the full article of which I am co-author, go here.

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