Technology-enhanced maintenance of treatment gains in eating disorders: efficacy of an intervention delivered via text messaging

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2012 Aug;80(4):700-6. doi: 10.1037/a0028030. Epub 2012 Apr 30.


Objective: Given the lack of maintenance interventions for eating disorders, a program delivered via the short message service (SMS) and text messaging was developed to support patients after their discharge from inpatient treatment.

Method: The efficacy of the intervention was studied in a randomized controlled trial. Additionally, its impact on the utilization of outpatient treatment during follow-up was investigated. One hundred sixty-five female patients with bulimia nervosa or a related eating disorder not otherwise specified were randomly assigned to a control group (treatment as usual; TAU) or an intervention group (SMS-based maintenance intervention; SMS). After hospital discharge, participants in the intervention group submitted a weekly symptom report via text message for 16 weeks and received tailored feedback. Primary outcome was the rate of partial remission 8 months after discharge from inpatient treatment.

Results: The difference in remission rates reached significance in the intent-to-treat analyses (SMS = 51.2%; TAU = 36.1%), χ²(1) = 3.81, p = .05, and approached significance in the completer analysis (SMS = 59.2%; TAU = 43.5%), χ²(1) = 3.44, p = .06. There were no differences in the utilization of outpatient treatment. Remission rates between the intervention and control groups were not significantly different among patients who used outpatient treatment (63.2% vs. 55.6%), χ²(1) = 0.44, p = .51. A significant difference was found in those who did not utilize such treatment (54.5% vs. 30.3%), χ²(1) = 3.97, p = .046.

Conclusion: The aftercare intervention was efficacious in enhancing treatment outcome after discharge from inpatient treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aftercare
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Remote Consultation*
  • Text Messaging*
  • Treatment Outcome