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COMET: Enhancing Care for People Who Inject Opioids Through a Meaningful Health Evaluation Tool

Project Leads: Sarah Kattakuzhy, MD & Sarah Schmalzle, MD


Injection drug use (IDU) increases risk for myriad health complications, including infections (e.g., HIV, cellulitis, and endocarditis), tissue injury, and overdose. Despite the prevalence of IDU and associated harms, tools to assess risk and provide harm reduction counseling are uncommon. This project sought to create and refine a tool for assessment of IDU practices, using the input of experienced clinicians and people with lived experience of IDU. 



A 3-part process of feedback and refinement was used (Figure 1). The authors developed INJECT-RESPECT version 1 based on existing literature and their experience. In Phase 1, 12 attending physicians in 6 specialties provided feedback on INJECT-RESPECT version 1, which was incorporated into version 2. In Phase 2, 20 people who were hospitalized with infectious complications of IDU were interviewed about INJECT-RESPECT version 2 and asked (1) Were you asked this question? and (2) Is this important to ask? Responses were recorded as “Yes”/“No”. In Phase 3, a focus group was conducted with 7 people with lived experience of IDU, focused on healthcare providers’ approach to discussing IDU practices.  


Of the 20 hospitalized participants in Phase 2, 45% were women and the median age was 37 years (range 24-48 years). Only seven questions (11%) were asked of most respondents, yet 29 questions (44%) were classified as important by ≥75% of respondents. Importance was correlated with whether the question was asked (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.71; p < 0.001; Figure 2). In the focus group, important themes were shame, stigma, and trauma (Figure 3). 


People admitted with acute complications of IDU were not asked questions about their IDU practices that they and surveyed clinicians deemed important. The results suggest more important questions are asked more frequently, but many important questions are rarely asked. One-third of questions were rated as not important by ≥50% of respondents; these questions will be refined or removed. The focus group yielded important considerations for discussing IDU. The feedback from Phases 1, 2, and 3 will be used to further improve the INJECT-RESPECT tool. Future efforts will focus on implementing the tool with clinicians and evaluating its real-world use. 


Figure 1. Study Design

Figure 2. Correlation between Question Asked and Question Importance

The INJECT-RESPECT tool was evaluated and refined in 3 phases, each seeking input from different groups of stakeholders. IDU, injection drug use; PWID, people who inject drugs. 

The importance of the INJECT-RESPECT questions -- as assessed by hospitalized people who inject drugs in Phase 2 -- was positively correlated with whether the participants had been asked the questions. (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.71; 95% CI 0.48 - 0.77; p < 0.001.) 


Figure 3. Focus Group Results 

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