Digital Health Tools and Patients With Drug Use Disorders: Qualitative Patient Experience Study of the Electronic Case-Finding and Help Assessment Tool (eCHAT)

Melinda Ada Choy, Elizabeth Sturgiss, Felicity Goodyear-Smith, Gavin Jd Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: One of the promises of digital health is to better engage patients and improve care for vulnerable populations. Patients with drug use disorders are a vulnerable population who often do not receive the care they need, both for their drug use disorders as well as their other health care needs. Appropriate primary care for patients with drug use disorders needs to be patient-centered, holistic, highly accessible, and engaging. The electronic Case-finding and Help Assessment Tool (eCHAT) was designed as a patient-centered tool for the identification and measurement of problematic health behaviors and mood states. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to explore the patient experience of eCHAT at an Australian family medicine clinic for patients with drug use disorders. METHODS: A total of 12 semistructured interviews were conducted with patients, two interviews were conducted with doctors, and one focus group was conducted with patient advocates who were former patients of the clinic where the study took place. The transcripts were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. RESULTS: The key themes identified from the interviews and the focus group were as follows: (1) eCHAT helped reduce stigma related to drug use in the doctor-patient consultation, (2) restricted answer options impacted the ability of patients to tell their stories, (3) patient-related response factors, (4) increased efficiency in the consultation process, and (5) divergence in level of concern around security and privacy. CONCLUSIONS: eCHAT has the potential to help vulnerable patients in primary care to engage more with their doctors and reduce experiences of stigma. eCHAT may be a useful digital health intervention in a family medicine clinic for patients with drug use disorders. It has the potential to improve patient engagement and access to health care, which are crucial areas of need in this vulnerable population. However, it is important to clearly communicate the privacy risk of digital health tools and to implement eCHAT such that it will add value to, rather than displace, in-person consultations with the family doctor.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19256
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2020


  • digital health
  • drug use disorders
  • eCHAT
  • eHealth
  • family medicine
  • general practice
  • mHealth
  • patient experience
  • stigma

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