Engagement patterns with a digital therapeutic for substance use disorders: Correlations with abstinence outcomes

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2021 Jul 30;108585. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108585. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Patient engagement may play a key role in the success or failure of treatments for substance use disorder (SUD). This exploratory analysis of data from a large, multisite effectiveness trial (NCT01104805) sought to determine how patient engagement with a digital therapeutic for SUD delivered at clinics was associated with abstinence outcomes.

Methods: The study evaluated engagement for 206 participants enrolled in a treatment program for SUDs related to cocaine, alcohol, cannabis, or other stimulants who were randomized to receive treatment as usual (TAU) or reduced TAU plus the digital Therapeutic Education System (TES) for 12 weeks. Participants were eligible for contingency management incentives for module completion (modules cover Community Reinforcement Approach topic areas) and negative urine drug screens. Analyses examined the association of module completion with end-of-treatment abstinence.

Results: Participants completed a mean of 38.8 (range 0-72) TES modules over 12 weeks of treatment. Study completers (n = 157) completed a mean of 45.5 (range 9-72) TES modules, whereas study noncompleters (n = 49) completed a mean of 17.4 (range 0-45) TES modules. The study observed a strong positive correlation between TES engagement (i.e., total number of modules completed) and the probability of abstinence during weeks 9-12 of treatment among 157 study completers (OR = 1.11; 95% CI 1.08-1.14). Each module completed increased the odds of abstinence during weeks 9-12 by approximately 11% for study completers and 9% for the full sample. The study observed a similar, but weaker, association between engagement and abstinence among 49 patients who did not complete the study (OR = 1.02; 95% CI 0.98-1.07).

Conclusions: Greater engagement with a digital therapeutic for patients with SUD (i.e., number of modules completed over time) was strongly associated with the probability of abstinence in the last four weeks of treatment among those who completed the recommended 12-week treatment.

Trials registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01104805.

Keywords: Abstinence; Community reinforcement approach; Digital therapy; Internet-based intervention; PDT; Prescription digital therapeutic; Retention; Substance use disorder; TES; Therapeutic education system; reSET.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01104805