Acceptability of an mhealth app that provides harm reduction services among people who inject drugs: Survey study

Shelby, Tyler and Zhou, Xin and Barber, Douglas and Altice, Frederick (2021) Acceptability of an mhealth app that provides harm reduction services among people who inject drugs: Survey study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23 (7). ISSN 1438-8871, DOI

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Background: Harm reduction services reduce the negative consequences of drug injection and are often embedded within syringe service programs (SSPs). However, people who inject drugs (PWID) suboptimally engage with such services because of stigma, fear, transportation restrictions, and limited hours of operation. Mobile health (mHealth) apps may provide an opportunity to overcome these barriers and extend the reach of SSPs beyond that of the traditional brick-and-mortar models. Objective: This study aims to assess the prevalence of smartphone ownership, the level of comfort in providing the personal information required to use mHealth apps, and interest in using an mHealth app to access harm reduction services among PWID to guide the development of an app. Methods: We administered a survey to 115 PWID who were enrolled via respondent-driven sampling from July 2018 to July 2019. We examined the extent to which PWID had access to smartphones; were comfortable in providing personal information such as name, email, and address; and expressed interest in various app-based services. We measured participant characteristics (demographics, health status, and behaviors) and used binary logistic and Poisson regressions to identify independent correlates of mHealth-related variables. The primary regression outcomes included summary scores for access, comfort, and interest. The secondary outcomes included binary survey responses for individual comfort or interest components. Results: Most participants were White (74/105, 70.5%), male (78/115, 67.8%), and middle-aged (mean=41.7 years), and 67.9% (74/109) owned a smartphone. Participants reported high levels of comfort in providing personal information to use an mHealth app, including name (96/109, 88.1%), phone number (92/109, 84.4%), email (85/109, 77.9%), physical address (85/109, 77.9%), and linkage to medical records (72/109, 66.1%). Participants also reported strong interest in app-based services, including medication or sterile syringe delivery (100/110, 90.9%), lab or appointment scheduling (90/110, 81.8%), medication reminders (77/110, 70%), educational material (65/110, 59.1%), and group communication forums (64/110, 58.2%). Most participants were comfortable with the idea of home delivery of syringes (93/109, 85.3%). Homeless participants had lower access to smartphones (adjusted odds ratio AOR] 0.15, 95% CI 0.05-0.46; P=.001), but no other participant characteristics were associated with primary outcomes. Among secondary outcomes, recent SSP use was positively associated with comfort with the home delivery of syringes (AOR 3.29, 95% CI 1.04-10.3 P=.04), and being older than 50 years was associated with an increased interest in educational materials (AOR 4.64, 95% CI 1.31-16.5; P=.02) and group communication forums (AOR 3.69, 95% CI 1.10-12.4; P=.04). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that aside from those experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, PWID broadly have access to smartphones, are comfortable with sharing personal information, and express interest in a wide array of services within an app. Given the suboptimal access to and use of SSPs among PWID, an mHealth app has a high potential to address the harm reduction needs of this vulnerable population.

Item Type: Article
Funders: T32 training grant [ R21 DA039842], T32 training grant [R01 DA033679]
Uncontrolled Keywords: People who inject drugs; Mhealth; Patient preferences; Syringe services programs; Service access; Mobile phone
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA)
Depositing User: Ms. Juhaida Abd Rahim
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2022 03:00
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2022 03:00

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