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Attitudes Toward Computer Interventions for Partner Abuse and Drug Use Among Women in the Emergency Department

Choo, Esther K. MD, MPH*; Ranney, Megan L. MD, MPH*; Wetle, Terrie F. PhD; Morrow, Kathleen PhD; Mello, Michael J. MD, MPH*; Squires, Daniel PhD, MPH§; Tapé, Chantal BA*; Garro, Aris MD, MPH*; Zlotnick, Caron PhD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: June 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 2 - p 95–104
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000057
Original Articles

Objectives: Drug use and partner abuse often coexist among women presenting to the emergency department (ED). Technology offers one solution to the limited time and expertise available to address these problems. The aims of this study were to explore women’s attitudes about use of computers for screening and intervening in drug use and partner abuse.

Methods: Seventeen adult women with recent histories of partner abuse and drug use were recruited from an urban ED to participate in one-on-one semistructured interviews. A coding classification scheme was developed and applied to the transcripts by 2 independent coders. The research team collaboratively decided upon a thematic framework and selected illustrative quotes.

Results: Most participants used computers and/or mobile phones frequently and reported high self-efficacy with them. Women described emotional difficulty and shame around partner abuse experiences and drug use; however, they felt that reporting drug use and partner abuse was easier and safer through a computer than face-to-face with a person, and that advice from a computer about drug use or partner abuse was acceptable and accessible. Some had very positive experiences completing screening assessments. However, participants were skeptical of a computer’s ability to give empathy, emotional support, or meaningful feedback. The ED was felt to be an appropriate venue for such programs, as long as they were private and did not supersede clinical care.

Conclusions: Women with partner abuse and drug use histories were receptive to computerized screening and advice, while still expressing a need for the empathy and compassion of a human interaction within an intervention.

*Department of Emergency Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Brown University School of Public Health

Departments of Psychiatry & Human Behavior

§Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI

Supported by a K23 career development award from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (K23 DA031881).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Esther K. Choo, MD, MPH, Department of Emergency Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, 55 Claverick Street, 2nd floor, Providence, RI 02906 (e-mail:

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