A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Intervention by Interactive Voice Response

Alcohol Alcohol. 2017 May 1;52(3):335-343. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agw102.


Aims: To determine the effect of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) brief intervention (BI) to reduce alcohol consumption among adults seeking primary care.

Methods: Patients (N = 1855) with unhealthy drinking were recruited from eight academic internal medicine and family medicine clinics and randomized to IVR-BI (n = 938) versus No IVR-BI control (n = 917). Daily alcohol consumption was assessed at baseline, 3- and 6-months using the Timeline Followback.

Results: The IVR-BI was completed by 95% of the 938 patients randomized to that condition, and 62% of them indicated a willingness to consider a change in their drinking. Participants in both conditions significantly reduced consumption over time, but changes were not different between groups. Regardless of condition, participants with alcohol use disorder (AUD) showed significant decreases in drinking outcomes. No significant changes were observed in patients without AUD, regardless of condition.

Conclusion: Although the IVR intervention was well accepted by patients, there was no evidence that IVR-BI was superior to No IVR-BI for reducing drinking in the subsequent 6 months. Because both the design and the intervention tested were novel, we cannot say definitively why this particular eHealth treatment lacked efficacy. It could be useful to evaluate the effect of the pre-randomization assessment alone on change in drinking. The high treatment engagement rate and successful implementation protocol are strengths, and can be adopted for future trials.

Short summary: We examined the efficacy of a novel BI for patient self-administration by automated telephone. Alcohol consumption decreased over time but there were no between-group changes in consumption. Regardless of treatment condition, participants with alcohol use disorder (AUD) showed significant reduction in drinking but participants without AUD showed no change.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Cell Phone Use*
  • Early Medical Intervention / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Young Adult