Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 511–522 | Cite as

A Smartphone Application Supporting Recovery from Heroin Addiction: Perspectives of Patients and Providers in China, Taiwan, and the USA

  • Marya Schulte
  • Di Liang
  • Fei Wu
  • Yu-Ching Lan
  • Wening Tsay
  • Jiang Du
  • Min Zhao
  • Xu Li
  • Yih -Ing HserEmail author


Smartphone-based interventions are increasingly used to support self-monitoring, self-management, and treatment and medication compliance in order to improve overall functioning and well-being. In attempting to develop a smartphone application (S-Health) that assists heroin-dependent patients in recovery, a series of focus groups (72 patients, 22 providers) were conducted in China, Taiwan, and the USA to obtain their perspectives on its acceptance and potential adoption. Data were analyzed according to the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory of characteristics important to the adoption of innovation. Important to Relative Advantage, USA participants cited S-Health’s potential ability to overcome logistical barriers, while those in China and Taiwan valued its potential to supplement currently limited services. In terms of Compatibility, participants across sites reported recovery needs and goals that such an application could be helpful in supporting; however, its utility during strong craving was questioned in China and Taiwan. Important factors relevant to Complexity included concerns about smartphone access and familiarity, individualization of content, and particularly in China and Taiwan, participants wanted assurance of privacy and security. The study results suggest a general acceptance, but also indicate cultural variations in access to therapeutic and other social support systems, legal repercussions of substance use, societal perceptions of addiction, and the role of family and other social support in recovery. Taking these factors into consideration is likely to increase diffusion as well as effectiveness of these smartphone-based interventions.


Smartphone application Recovery from heroin addiction Diffusion of innovation theory S-Health 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (P30DA016383, R21DA033285, & R13 DA035084; PI:Hser).

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marya Schulte
    • 1
  • Di Liang
    • 1
  • Fei Wu
    • 2
  • Yu-Ching Lan
    • 3
  • Wening Tsay
    • 4
  • Jiang Du
    • 5
  • Min Zhao
    • 5
  • Xu Li
    • 5
  • Yih -Ing Hser
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Los Angeles CountyUSA
  3. 3.China Medical UniversityTaichungTaiwan
  4. 4.Food and Drug AdministrationTaipeiTaiwan
  5. 5.Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of MedicineShanghaiChina

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