Workload, Usability, and Engagement with a Mobile App Supporting Video Observation of Methadone Take-Home Dosing: Usability Study

JMIR Hum Factors. 2023 Jul 13:10:e42654. doi: 10.2196/42654.


Background: Methadone, a cornerstone of opioid use disorder treatments for many decades, is an essential tool for combatting the opioid epidemic. However, requirements for observing methadone dosing in person through direct observed therapy (DOT) impose significant barriers for many patients. Digital technology can facilitate remote DOT, which could reduce barriers to methadone treatment. Currently, there are limited data on the usability of such technology among patients and counselors in methadone treatment settings.

Objective: The primary objective of this study was to assess the workload, usability, and engagement of a video-based DOT mobile app for patients with opioid use disorder receiving methadone treatment. The secondary objective was to assess the workload, usability, and engagement of the provider-facing app portal used by counselors.

Methods: Patients (n=12) and counselors (n=3) who previously tried video DOT for methadone through a smartphone app in an opioid treatment program participated in usability testing sessions. Participants completed essential tasks for video DOT, then provided ratings of workload (NASA Task Load Index), usability (modified System Usability Scale), and engagement (modified Engagement Scale) with the core features of the video DOT program.

Results: Patients and counselors reported low mental, physical, and temporal demands, successful performance, low effort, and low frustration associated with activities. Patients reported high usability (mean 85, SD 9.5) and engagement (mean 3.8, SD 1.1); counselors reported moderate usability (mean 43.3, SD 17.7) and engagement (mean 2.81, SD 0.63).

Conclusions: A mobile health app that facilitates video-based DOT for methadone required a low workload for patients and counselors and was highly usable for patients in an opioid treatment program; however, there are opportunities to improve usability and engagement for the counselor-facing portal.

Keywords: addiction; direct observed therapy; health app; mHealth; methadone; mobile app; mobile health; opioid; smartphone app; substance use; usability; user engagement; user testing; workload.