BACKGROUND: Treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) is characterized by an adherence rate below 50%. Clinical research has found that patient adherence enhances treatment effect; hence, health authorities, clinicians, and researchers strive to explore initiatives contributing to patients receiving treatment. Concurrently, videoconferencing-based treatment is gaining ground within other addiction and psychiatric areas.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to test whether optional videoconferencing increases adherence to and effectiveness of AUD treatment in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). We hypothesized that the intervention would decrease premature dropout (the primary outcome), as well as increase successful treatment termination, treatment duration, and treatment outcome (secondary outcomes).
METHODS: We conducted this study in the public outpatient alcohol clinic in Odense, Denmark, between September 2012 and April 2013. It was an RCT with 2 groups: treatment as usual (TAU) and treatment as usual with add-on intervention (TAU+I). The TAU+I group had the option, from session to session, to choose to receive treatment as usual via videoconferencing. Data consisted of self-reported responses to the European version of the Addiction Severity Index (EuropASI). We collected data at baseline, at follow-up at 3, 6, and 12 months, and at discharge.
RESULTS: Among consecutive patients attending the clinic, 128 met the inclusion criteria, and 71 of them were included at baseline. For the primary outcome, after 180 days, 2 of 32 patients (6%) in the TAU+I group and 12 of 39 patients (31%) in the TAU group had dropped out prematurely. The difference is significant (P=.008). After 365 days, 8 patients (25%) in the TAU+I group and 17 patients (44%) in the TAU group had dropped out prematurely. The difference is significant (P=.02). For the secondary outcomes, significantly more patients in the TAU+I group were still attending treatment after 1 year (P=.03). We found no significant differences between the 2 groups with regard to successful treatment termination and treatment outcome.
CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that offering patients optional videoconferencing may prevent premature dropouts from treatment and prolong treatment courses. However, the small sample size precludes conclusions regarding the effect of the intervention, which was not detectable in the patients' use of alcohol and severity of problems.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The Regional Health Research Ethics Committee System in Denmark: S-20110052; https://komite.regionsyddanmark.dk/wm258128 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6tTL3CO6u).