Recently, there has been a gradual shift from inpatient-only electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) toward outpatient administration. Potential advantages include convenience and reduced cost. But providers do not have the same opportunity to monitor treatment response and adverse effects as they do with inpatients. This can obviate some of the potential advantages of outpatient ECT, such as tailoring treatment intervals to clinical response. Scheduling is typically algorithmic rather than empirically based. Daily monitoring through an automated telephone, interactive voice response (IVR), is a potential solution to this quandary.
To test feasibility of clinical monitoring via IVR, we recruited 26 patients (69% female; mean age, 51 years) receiving outpatient ECT to make daily IVR reports of affective symptoms and subjective memory for 60 days. The IVR also administered a word recognition task daily to test objective memory. Every seventh day, a longer IVR weekly interview included questions about suicidal ideation.
Overall daily call compliance was high (mean, 80%). Most participants (96%) did not consider the calls to be time-consuming. Longitudinal regression analysis using generalized estimating equations revealed that participant objective memory functioning significantly improved during the study (P < 0.05). Of 123 weekly IVR interviews, 41 reports (33%) in 14 patients endorsed suicidal ideation during the previous week.
Interactive voice response monitoring of outpatient ECT can provide more detailed clinical information than standard outpatient ECT assessment. Interactive voice response data offer providers a comprehensive, longitudinal picture of patient treatment response and adverse effects as a basis for treatment scheduling and ongoing clinical management.