Feasibility of a Mobile Health App for Routine Outcome Monitoring and Feedback in SMART Recovery Mutual Support Groups: Stage 1 Mixed Methods Pilot Study

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Oct 6;23(10):e25217. doi: 10.2196/25217.


Background: Mutual support groups are an important source of long-term help for people impacted by addictive behaviors. Routine outcome monitoring (ROM) and feedback are yet to be implemented in these settings. SMART Recovery mutual support groups focus on self-empowerment and use evidence-based techniques (eg, motivational and behavioral strategies). Trained facilitators lead all SMART Recovery groups, providing an opportunity to implement ROM.

Objective: The aim of this stage 1 pilot study is to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of a novel, purpose-built mobile health ROM and feedback app (SMART Track) in mutual support groups coordinated by SMART Recovery Australia (SRAU) over 8 weeks.

Methods: SMART Track was developed during phase 1 of this study using participatory design methods and an iterative development process. During phase 2, 72 SRAU group participants were recruited to a nonrandomized, prospective, single-arm trial of the SMART Track app. Four modes of data collection were used: ROM data directly entered by participants into the app; app data analytics captured by Amplitude Analytics (number of visits, number of unique users, visit duration, time of visit, and user retention); baseline, 2-, and 8-week follow-up assessments conducted through telephone; and qualitative telephone interviews with a convenience sample of study participants (20/72, 28%) and facilitators (n=8).

Results: Of the 72 study participants, 68 (94%) created a SMART Track account, 64 (88%) used SMART Track at least once, and 42 (58%) used the app for more than 5 weeks. During week 1, 83% (60/72) of participants entered ROM data for one or more outcomes, decreasing to 31% (22/72) by the end of 8 weeks. The two main screens designed to provide personal feedback data (Urges screen and Overall Progress screen) were the most frequently visited sections of the app. Qualitative feedback from participants and facilitators supported the acceptability of SMART Track and the need for improved integration into the SRAU groups. Participants reported significant reductions between the baseline and 8- week scores on the Severity of Dependence Scale (mean difference 1.93, SD 3.02; 95% CI 1.12-2.73) and the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale-10 (mean difference 3.96, SD 8.31; 95% CI 1.75-6.17), but no change on the Substance Use Recovery Evaluator (mean difference 0.11, SD 7.97; 95% CI -2.02 to 2.24) was reported.

Conclusions: Findings support the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of SMART Track. Given that sustained engagement with mobile health apps is notoriously difficult to achieve, our findings are promising. SMART Track offers a potential solution for ROM and personal feedback, particularly for people with substance use disorders who attend mutual support groups.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12619000686101; https://anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=377336.

International registered report identifier (irrid): RR2-10.2196/15113.

Keywords: SMART Recovery; addiction; mHealth; mobile phone; mutual aid; mutual support group; routine outcome monitoring; treatment progress feedback.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Telemedicine*