While IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems have plenty of benefits associated with them (ie. helping customers find answers to problems while allowing businesses to reduce the amount of staff they need to operate a phone system and remaining open around the clock on at least some level), a recent experiment showed that they have a different use that no one likely saw coming – the ability to help smokers who have quit their habit continue to keep off smoking entirely.
A recent study established by BMC Public Health looked into the practice of including IVR systems in conjunction with what are known as quitline support systems designed to help those who want to quit smoking do so. While in many cases, most who try to quit require several attempts to do so, the addition of quitline support with IVR had actually shown signs of being more helpful for those users trying to quit.
The study encompassed 2,985 previous quitline callers, who were then randomly placed in groups to receive IVR screening – or IVR screening with intervention – with said intervention consisting of a series of questions designed to help users find out what specific problems they were having, as well as an invitation to return to the quitline and restart their treatment. Specific issues targeted by the IVR system were points such as, "I would like to quit but have tried in the past and couldn't do it,” "I used the quitline support in the past; I am not sure I am eligible to use the quitline again,” and "I already used the quitline; I want something different.”
The results were telling; the IVR system, involved with a quitline, reached 715 former quitline users, or just short of a quarter of the full sample set. Of that, 715, 194 users reported successfully quitting smoking, and as such, were removed from the survey. With 521 users left to consider, the results became quite clear. While a little over three percent enrolled again without prompting from the IVR, the IVR's influence brought in 28.2 percent of its participants. While most demographic factors like gender, race and level of education didn't affect the overall numbers, one clear point was that many of the "recycled smokers,” as they're called, were older than those who refused to start a new treatment cycle. Just what that means for the purposes of this survey isn't quite clear, though the primary reason for quitting seemed to be a lack of interest in quitting, as well as a "low self-efficacy.”
Tobacco smoking has a variety of potential hazards commonly associated with it, so those who want to quit smoking are taking a valuable step in the right direction as far as their overall health is concerned. Measures like a quitline backed up with an IVR system looks like a valuable and cost-effective means to help users break the habit, if that's what they want to do, and so should be considered a possibility for any health care service offering a quitline.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo