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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2008 Mar;69(2):251-8.

Using interactive voice response to enhance brief alcohol intervention in primary care settings.

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University of Vermont, College of Medicine, Health Behavior Research Center, UHC #4570H3, 1 South Prospect Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401, USA.



Self-monitoring is recommended following brief alcohol intervention (BI). We have previously demonstrated that self-monitoring with an automated telephone system (interactive voice response; IVR) is associated with a steady reduction in alcohol consumption in the absence of BI. In this study we explore the feasibility and efficacy of IVR as a possible therapeutic enhancement for BI.


We updated all providers (N= 112) in 15 primary care clinics about BI and encouraged them to do a BI with their patients whenever appropriate and to invite those patients to participate in the research project. Interested patients (N = 338) were randomized to one of four study conditions including no IVR and three groups who self-monitored for 6 months using an IVR: no feedback, feedback, and feedback plus a monetary calling incentive.


The IVR proved to be a feasible method for self-monitoring. Of those invited to use the IVR, 90% initiated use and made 95% of the calls while they remained engaged with the system; more than half continued calling for the entire 6 months. Reported impact of the IVR and associated feedback on drinking awareness was high. Therapeutic results were mixed. Overall, the IVR groups reported higher consumption on the Timeline Followback (TLFB) at the 3- and 6-month follow-ups than did the no IVR group. However, because of a potential measurement confound, the TLFB may not have operated in an unbiased fashion across the four study conditions. A comparison of the feedback and no feedback IVR groups, which is independent of this confound, shows a significant therapeutic advantage of IVR with feedback.


IVR is a feasible technology for behavioral self-monitoring in primary care clinics. IVR with regular feedback may be an effective therapeutic enhancement to BI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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