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Approaches for implementing digital interventions for alcohol use disorders in primary care: A qualitative, user-centered design study.
Glass JE, Tiffany B, Matson TE, Lim C, Gundersen G, Kimbel K, Hartzler AL, Curran GM, McWethy AG, Caldeiro RM, Bradley KA. Approaches for implementing digital interventions for alcohol use disorders in primary care: A qualitative, user-centered design study. Implementation research and practice. 2022 Nov 4; 3(1):26334895221135264.
Digital interventions, such as smartphone apps, can be effective in treating alcohol use disorders (AUD). However, efforts to integrate digital interventions into primary care have been challenging. To inform successful implementation, we sought to understand how patients and clinicians preferred to use apps in routine primary care.
This study combined user-centered design and qualitative research methods, interviewing 18 primary care patients with AUD and nine primary care clinicians on topics such as prior experiences with digital tools, and design preferences regarding approaches for offering apps for AUD in primary care. Interviews were recorded and transcribed for template analysis whereby a priori codes were based on interview topics and refined through iterative coding. New codes and cross-cutting themes emerged from the data.
Patient participants with AUD indicated they would be more likely to engage in treatment if primary care team members were involved in their use of apps. They also preferred to see clinicians "invested" and recommended that clinicians ask about app use and progress during follow-up appointments or check-ins. Clinician participants valued the opportunity to offer apps to their patients but noted that workflows would need to be tailored to individual patient needs. Time pressures, implementation complexity, and lack of appropriate staffing were cited as barriers. Clinicians proposed concrete solutions (e.g., education, tools, and staffing models) that could improve their ability to use apps within the constraints of primary care and suggested that some patients could potentially use apps without clinician support.
A user-centered approach to engaging patients in digital alcohol interventions in primary care may require personalized support for both initiation and follow-up. Meeting patients' needs likely require increased staffing and efficient workflows in primary care. Health systems should consider offering multiple pathways for enrolling patients in apps to accommodate individual preferences and contextual barriers.
PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY:
Healthcare systems have begun using app-based treatments to help patients manage their health conditions, including alcohol use disorders. Some apps have been tested in research studies and appear to be effective. However, it is difficult for healthcare teams to offer apps to patients. Clinicians must engage in new activities that they have not done before, such as "teaching" patients to use apps and checking in on their use of the apps. Identifying how to use apps in routine healthcare is critical to their successful implementation. This study interviewed 27 people, including healthcare providers and patients in primary care, to uncover the most optimal ways to offer apps to patients with alcohol use disorders. The interviews combined the use of qualitative research methods and user-centered design. Results suggest that to use to address alcohol use disorders, primary care teams should be prepared to offer personalized support to patients. Both patient and clinician interviewees said that the steps required to use apps must be intuitive and simple. Patients could gain more benefits if clinicians introduced the apps and guided patients to use them, as opposed to making apps available for patients to download and use on their own. However, the exact approach to offering apps would depend on a given patient's preferences and the extent that staffing was available in the clinic to support patients. Health systems should be prepared to offer and support patients in their use of apps, which should accommodate patient preferences and the constraints of the clinic.