Last updated on July 2020

Step Away: Comparing a Chatbot-delivered Alcohol Intervention With a Smartphone App


Brief description of study

A wide gap exists between the number of people needing alcohol treatment and those actually receiving it. This study builds on a previous one that indicated that smartphone-based intervention can help increase the number of people who receive alcohol intervention services and decrease treatment barriers. Improvements to the previously developed app, Step Away, will be made. In addition, a new method of delivering the Step Away intervention via an online, interactive chatbot, will be developed with the goal of improving engagement and effectiveness. Participants will be recruited and outcomes between the two interventions examined to determine if the Step Away chatbot has enhanced user engagement, intervention fidelity and outcome efficacy in comparison to the Step Away app amongst a group of problem drinkers. Participants will also be interviewed to determine their perceptions of both interventions with a view towards understanding barriers to user engagement.

Detailed Study Description

A wide gap exists between the number of individuals needing alcohol treatment and those actually receiving it. Technologically-delivered interventions may dramatically increase the number of individuals who receive needed alcohol intervention services due to their ability to circumvent treatment barriers. Smartphones are the ideal devices to provide empirically-supported intervention assistance whenever and wherever it is needed. Our research team previously developed and tested a stand-alone, self-administered smartphone-based intervention system for alcohol use disorders that was based on empirically supported face-to-face treatments (the Location-Based Monitoring and Intervention for Alcohol Use Disorders (LBMI-A) system). A revised and improved iPhone-based version, Step Away, was developed. Step Away usage data indicate that user engagement with modules that are not "pushed" to the user is relatively low, which is a problem that many health apps experience. A new method of delivering Step Away through an artificially intelligent (AI) chatbot will be developed that holds potential for providing enhanced user engagement and effectiveness as it can reach out through a text interface to introduce new intervention steps and respond to the user with Step Away's in-the-moment help with having a craving, experiencing distress or needing social support. The first phase of this study will focus on developing a Step Away chatbot and enhance the existing Step Away app's user interface. The second phase will entail a pilot study to determine if the Step Away chatbot has enhanced user engagement, intervention fidelity and outcome efficacy in comparison to the Step Away app amongst a group of problem drinkers. Participants will be interviewed to determine their perceptions of both interventions with a view towards understanding barriers to user engagement. Finally, this project will set the stage for a further, large-scale evaluation of Step Away, the content of which will be determined by the outcome of the pilot study.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT04447794

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University of Alaska Anchorage

Anchorage, AK United States
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Recruitment Status: Open


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