About Us

The Health Behavior Research Center (HBRC), established in 1999, is an National Institutes of Health-funded center within the Department of Psychiatry developing technologies to enable greater participation of patients in their medical care.

The underlying technology used in most of our research is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). IVR is a method for interaction between an individual and a computer through the medium of a telephone using the touch-tone keypad. Research participants use their telephone to call a toll-free number and answer an automated questionnaire which uses a branching logic format. Participants answer daily questions by keying in responses using their telephone's keypad and the participant's answers go directly into a computer where their data are coded and saved into a database. IVR offers particular benefits to patients as a self-monitoring and/or intervention method. These include convenience, simplicity of use, and a high level of patient comfort in reporting even highly sensitive material. Researchers access the IVR via computer to download data in order to analyze for reports or, in many cases, for personalized feedback. The researcher then uses the same telephone system to record confidential, personalized messages or feedback so that a particular research participant can access it privately.

To enable greater participation of patients in their medical care, HBRC is actively collaborating on a number of projects with other departments in the UVM College of Medicine, the UVM Department of Psychology, and with medical practices at The University of Vermont Medical Center and in the community. Currently, investigators are conducting the PHONE Study, which determines if we can enhance your provider visit by identifying patients ahead of time who might want information, evaluation, referral or treatment for various health-related concerns. The study involves answering 6 questions about your current health. Based on your responses to the questions, you may be offered information, resources, and/or opportunities to participate in other research. A small number of patients who complete the survey will then be invited to use the automated telephone system to hear specific information based on their survey responses. If you are asked to participate in that study, the UVM researchers will provide you with information to help you decide whether to take part. For this second project, you would be compensated financially for your time. Some of the HBRC's completed studies include the Pain Control Study, the Weight Control Study, the Alcohol Therapeutic Study, and the Drinking Patterns Study. These studies have helped improve the efficiency and quality of health care for the patients involved, as well as benefit the medical comunity.