Diagnosing major depression in medical outpatients: acceptability of telephone interviews

J Psychosom Res. 2003 Oct;55(4):385-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(02)00637-2.


Objective: To assess the acceptability to patients of a diagnostic interview for depression (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV; SCID) conducted over the telephone to their homes.

Method: Postal questionnaire survey of patients who had attended an oncology outpatient clinic where they had scored high on a screening questionnaire and had subsequently undergone an SCID interview over the telephone.

Results: Of the 224 patients telephoned, five refused the diagnostic interview. Of the 219 who were interviewed, 184 satisfactorily completed and returned the postal questionnaire (84% response rate). Only 17% reported the interview to be distressing. Ninety-four percent of all questionnaire respondents and 84% (n=31) of those who reported the interview to have been distressing endorsed the item "Had I known in advance what answering the questions would have been like for me, I would still have agreed to take part". Perceiving the interview as distressing was associated with having major depression (P<.001). Forty-seven percent said that, given the choice, they would have preferred a face-to-face interview.

Conclusion: Telephone-administered diagnostic interviews are acceptable to most cancer patients and may even be preferred to face-to-face interviews at the hospital. This finding, together with the existing evidence of its validity, should encourage the use of telephone diagnostic interviews for depression, particularly when face-to-face interviews are impracticable, in both research studies and clinical practice. Indeed, a substantial proportion of patients may actually prefer them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological / methods*
  • Interview, Psychological / standards*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Outpatients
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Telephone*