Automating standard alcohol use assessment instruments via interactive voice response technology

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2002 Feb;26(2):207-11.


Background: Interactive voice response (IVR) technology integrates touch-tone telephones with computer-automated data processing. IVR offers a convenient, efficient method for remote collection of self-report data.

Methods: Twenty-six subjects recruited from an outpatient alcohol treatment center completed IVR and paper/pencil versions of a demographic and drinking history questionnaire, Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale, Drinker Inventory of Consequences, Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale, Alcohol Dependence Scale, and two numerical rating scales of craving and desire to drink during the prior week. Administration of the instruments in both formats was repeated 1 week later. The order of administration method was counterbalanced between subjects and reversed across data collection sessions. Scale and subscale scores from both methods were correlated within sessions. Test-retest correlations were also calculated for each method. A criterion of alpha = 0.01 was used to control type I statistical error.

Results: Intermethod correlations within each session were significant for all of the instruments administered. Test-retest correlations for both methods were also significant, except for the numerical ratings. Scores on the Alcohol Dependence Scale obtained via IVR were significantly lower than those collected by paper/pencil. Other differences between the data collection methods or across the sessions were inconsistent. The average IVR call length was 34 min and 23 sec. Paper/pencil forms required an average of 18 min and 38 sec to complete and an additional 10 min and 17 sec for data entry.

Conclusions: IVR technology provides a convenient alternative to collecting self-report measures of treatment outcomes. Both paper/pencil and IVR assessments provide highly convergent data and demonstrate good test-retest reliability. Alcohol Dependence Scale score differences between methods highlight special considerations for IVR adaptation of existing paper/pencil instruments. Benefits of IVR include procedural standardization, automatic data scoring, direct electronic storage, and remote accessibility from multiple locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality Control
  • Remote Consultation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Voice


  • Ethanol