Acceptability and feasibility of using an online digital health agent to deliver MI to treat alcohol abuse: Consumer Perspectives

BACKGROUND: Web-based and online interventions that target preventable, negative health behaviors such as alcohol misuse have existed for nearly two decades, but the diffusion and uptake of these technologies has been slower than expected (Sanchez et. al., 2019). In this study, we explore alcohol users’ perspectives on using an online 3-D digital health agent that delivers a brief motivational interviewing (MI) intervention to treat alcohol abuse.METHODS: A total of 51 alcohol users ages 21 to 55 were recruited online to participate in the intervention. They were asked to provide feedback regarding the acceptability, feasibility, and usefulness of the digital health agent. Participants completed a questionnaire based on a combination of O’Brien’s 6-attribute model, Heerink’s model, and Bartneck's ‘Godspeed questionnaire’.RESULTS: Participants were 28 males and 23 females with a mean age of 34. Percentages reported below reflect participants who agreed or strongly agreed with each statement. Overall users were satisfied with the technology, with 72.5% reporting they enjoyed participating in sessions with the agent and 66% reporting they would like to interact with the agent again in the future. Participants also rated the agent as useful with 66% reporting that they think it is a good idea to use a virtual agent and 72.5% reporting the system could be useful for their needs. Participants stated that the system was easy to use (74.5%) and they quickly learned how to use it (80.4%). Participants felt like they could connect and trust the agent with 66.7% reporting that they felt like the agent understood them, that the agent was friendly (78.4%), and that they felt comfortable disclosing information about their drinking to the agent (86.3%) – with 64.7% reporting that they felt more comfortable disclosing to the agent than to their doctor. Finally, participants reported that they trusted the agent’s advice (72.5%) and were planning on following the advice received (66.7%).CONCLUSION: Web-based interventions are cost-effective, highly accessible, and less stigmatizing than traditional therapy. Data collection and analyses are underway to determine the effectiveness of this intervention in reducing alcohol use.

KEYWORDS: digital health, virtual health agent, alcohol abuse