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.