A Technology-Assisted Telephone Intervention for Work-Related Stress Management: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Salla Tuulikki Muuraiskangas, Anita Marianne Honka, Ulla-Maija Junno, Hannu Olavi Nieminen, Jouni Kalevi Kaartinen

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    Background: Stress management interventions combining technology with human involvement have the potential to improve the cost-effectiveness of solely human-delivered interventions, but few randomized controlled trials exist for assessing the cost-effectiveness of technology-assisted human interventions. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether a technology-assisted telephone intervention for stress management is feasible for increasing mental well-being or decreasing the time use of coaches (as an approximation of intervention cost) while maintaining participants' adherence and satisfaction compared with traditional telephone coaching. Methods: A 2-arm, pilot randomized controlled trial of 9 months for stress management (4-month intensive and 5-month maintenance phases) was conducted. Participants were recruited on the web through a regional occupational health care provider and randomized equally to a research (technology-assisted telephone intervention) and a control (traditional telephone intervention) group. The coaching methodology was based on habit formation, motivational interviewing, and the transtheoretical model. For the research group, technology supported both coaches and participants in identifying behavior change targets, setting the initial coaching plan, monitoring progress, and communication. The pilot outcome was intervention feasibility, measured primarily by self-assessed mental well-being (WorkOptimum index) and self-reported time use of coaches and secondarily by participants' adherence and satisfaction. Results: A total of 49 eligible participants were randomized to the research (n=24) and control (n=25) groups. Most participants were middle-aged (mean 46.26, SD 9.74 years) and female (47/49, 96%). Mental well-being improved significantly in both groups (WorkOptimum from “at risk” to “good” Â>0.85; P < .001), and no between-group differences were observed in the end (Â=0.56, 95% CI 0.37-0.74; P = .56). The total time use of coaches did not differ significantly between the groups (366.0 vs 343.0 minutes, Â=0.60, 95% CI 0.33-0.85; P = .48). Regarding adherence, the dropout rate was 13% (3/24) and 24% (6/25), and the mean adherence rate to coaching calls was 92% and 86% for the research and control groups, respectively; the frequency of performing coaching tasks was similar for both groups after both phases; and the diligence in performing the tasks during the intensive phase was better for the research group (5.0 vs 4.0, Â=0.58, 95% CI 0.51-0.65; P = .03), but no difference was observed during the maintenance phase. Satisfaction was higher in the research group during the intensive phase (5.0 vs 4.0, Â=0.66, 95% CI 0.58-0.73; P < .001) but not during the maintenance phase. Conclusions: The technology-assisted telephone intervention is feasible with some modifications, as it had similar preliminary effectiveness as the traditional telephone intervention, and the participants had better satisfaction with and similar or better adherence to the intervention, but it did not reduce the time use of coaches. The technology should be improved to provide more digested information for action planning and templates for messaging.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere26569
    JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • feasibility
    • health behavior change intervention
    • mental well-being
    • occupational health
    • randomized controlled trial
    • remote coaching
    • stress management
    • technology-assisted coaching
    • telephone coaching

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 2

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health Informatics


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