HealthCall: Smartphone enhancement of brief interventions to improve HIV medication adherence among patients in HIV care

Heavy drinking among people living with HIV (PLWH) reduces ART adherence and worsens health outcomes. Lengthy interventions are not feasible in most HIV care settings, and patients infrequently follow referrals to outside treatment. Utilizing visual and video features of smartphone technology, we developed HealthCall as an electronic means of increasing patient involvement in a brief intervention to reduce drinking and improve ART adherence. The objective of the current study is to evaluate the efficacy of HealthCall to improve ART adherence among PLWH who drink heavily when paired with two brief interventions: the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) Clinician’s Guide (CG) or Motivational Interviewing (MI). Therefore, we conducted a 1:1:1 randomized trial among 114 participants with alcohol dependence at a large urban HIV clinic. Participants were randomized to one of three groups: (1) CG only (n = 37), (2) CG and HealthCall (n = 38), or (3) MI and HealthCall (n = 39). Baseline interventions targeting drinking reduction and ART adherence were ~ 25 min, with brief (10–15 min) booster sessions at 30 and 60 days. The outcome was ART adherence assessed using unannounced phone pill-count method (possible adherence scores: 0–100%) at 30-day, 60-day, 3, 6, and 12 months. Analyses were conducted using generalized linear mixed models with pre-planned contrasts. Of the 114 enrolled patients, 58% were male, 75% identified as Black/African American, 28% were Hispanic, and 62% had less than a high school education. The mean age was 47.5 years (standard deviation [SD] 10 years) and the mean number of years since they were diagnosed with HIV was 18.6 (SD 7.6). Participants assigned to HealthCall to extend the CG had increased levels of ART adherence at 60-day and 6-month follow-up (compared to CG only), although there was no statistically significant difference by 12-month follow-up. Participants who were assigned to HealthCall to extend the MI never had statistically significant higher levels of ART adherence. These results suggest that the use of a smartphone app can be used to initially extend the reach of a brief drinking intervention to improve ART adherence over a short period of time; however, sustained long-term improvements in ART adherence after intervention activity ends remains a challenge.

Full citation:
Knox J, Aharonovich E, Zingman BS, Stohl M, Walsh C, Elliott JC, Fink DS, Durant S, Menchaca R, Sharma A, Denning M, Hasin D (2024).
HealthCall: Smartphone enhancement of brief interventions to improve HIV medication adherence among patients in HIV care
AIDS and Behavior [Epub 2024 Mar 13]. doi: 10.1007/s10461-024-04289-z.