CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A smartphone app designed to improve care for people living with HIV has increased users’ consistency in doctor visits and improved their health outcomes, a new study has found.
Users of the PositiveLinks app intervention developed at the University of Virginia School of Medicine showed improved consistency in doctor visits at both six and 12 months, and the percentage of people with “undetectable HIV viral loads”—a key outcome for individuals living with HIV—increased significantly.
The PostiveLinks app features a mix of engagement, social interaction and access to care providers, and provides appointment reminders, important health information and daily questions about stress, mood and medication adherence. It also features a virtual support group where users can interact anonymously to ask questions, share their stories and find strength in the journeys of others.
UVA created the app to address serious health care gaps for people living with HIV, as nearly half of people diagnosed with HIV never establish regular care, said Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, one of the study’s researchers, in a statement.
“PositiveLinks was developed with significant input from our patients for the entire duration of the project,” said Dillingham. “We believe that this collaborative approach to creating and testing a clinical intervention made it more appealing to our patients and contributed to the terrific outcomes.”
The researchers are continuing to improve the app and have already rolled it out to serve more than 200 patients at UVA. They are also replicating the program at the Inova health system in Northern Virginia as well as in Lynchburg, Va. It’s also being used in Irkutsk, Russia, to support people co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis.