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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017 Dec;83:15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2017.09.013. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

HealthCall delivered via smartphone to reduce co-occurring drug and alcohol use in HIV-infected adults: A randomized pilot trial.

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Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, NY, New York, USA; New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY, New York, USA. Electronic address:
New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY, New York, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, NY, New York, USA; New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY, New York, USA; Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, NY, New York, USA.



Co-occurrence of drug and alcohol use among people living with HIV is linked to poor medication adherence and lack of viral suppression. HealthCall, a technological enhancement of brief Motivational Interviewing (MI), involves brief daily self-monitoring, positive reinforcement, and personalized feedback. This randomized pilot study among people living with HIV investigated the feasibility and efficacy of reducing non-injection drug and alcohol use with MI+HealthCall as adapted for smartphone technology.


An urban, largely-minority community sample of adults living with HIV were screened for eligibility: last 30 day use of non-injection drugs (≥4days of crack/cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin use) and binge drinking (≥1day of 4+ standard drinks). Those eligible were randomized to one of two groups: MI-only (n=21) and MI+HealthCall-S (n=21). Trained counselors delivered the brief MI at baseline. Drug and alcohol use assessments were completed at baseline, 30 and 60days (end of treatment). Primary outcomes derived from a Timeline Follow Back (TLFB) of the past 30 days included (1) total number of days used primary drug (NumDU) (2) total quantity of primary drug used (dollar amount spent per day; QuantU), (3) total number of drinking days (NumDD) and (4) mean number of drinks per day (QuantDD). Feasibility was determined by HealthCall use rates, patient satisfaction questionnaire (1-5 scale, 5 being best), and retention.


The median daily use rate for HealthCall was 95%, patient satisfaction was excellent (4.5) and retention was high (93%). Both treatment groups reduced drug and alcohol use by end of treatment, with MI+Healthcall-S showing significantly greater reductions than MI-only in QuantU (p=0.01) and NumDU (p=0.046). P-values for reductions in alcohol quantity and frequency in the MI+Healthcall group were 0.09-0.11.


This proof-of-concept randomized trial indicates that HealthCall on the smartphone is a highly feasible intervention in urban, minority individuals with HIV, and suggests efficacy in reducing co-occurring drug and alcohol use. Results suggest opportunities for brief behavioral intervention that may be enhanced through interactive mobile technology to address complex alcohol and drug use patterns that interfere with HIV care, medication adherence and ultimately, viral suppression. A larger randomized trial is warranted to replicate and extend present results.


Co-occurring drug and alcohol use; HIV; Motivational Interviewing; Smartphone

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