BACKGROUND: Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent and cause substantial economic burden. Blended cognitive-behavioural therapy (bCBT), which integrates Internet-based CBT and face-to-face CBT (ftfCBT), is an attractive and potentially cost-saving treatment alternative to conventional CBT for patients with anxiety disorders in specialised mental health care. However, little is known about the effectiveness of bCBT in routine care. We examined the acceptability, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bCBT versus ftfCBT in outpatient specialised care to patients with panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Patients with anxiety disorders were randomised to bCBT (n = 52) or ftfCBT (n = 62). Acceptability of bCBT and ftfCBT were evaluated by assessing treatment preference, adherence, satisfaction and therapeutic alliance. Costs and effects were assessed at post-treatment and one-year follow-up. Primary outcome measure was the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). Secondary outcomes were depressive symptoms, general psychopathology, work and social adjustment, quality of life and mastery. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) were computed from societal and healthcare perspectives by calculating the incremental costs per incremental quality-adjusted life year (QALY). No significant differences between bCBT and ftfCBT were found on acceptability or effectiveness measures at post-treatment (Cohen's d between-group effect size on BAI = 0.15, 95% CI -0.30 to 0.60) or at one-year follow-up (d = -0.38, 95% CI -0.84 to 0.09). The modelled point estimates of societal costs (bCBT €10945, ftfCBT €10937) were higher and modelled point estimates of direct medical costs (bCBT €3748, ftfCBT €3841) were lower in bCBT. The acceptability curves showed that bCBT was expected to be a cost-effective intervention. Results should be carefully interpreted due to the small sample size.
CONCLUSIONS: bCBT appears an acceptable, clinically effective and potentially cost-saving alternative option for treating patients with anxiety disorders. Trials with larger samples are needed to further investigate cost-effectiveness.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register: NTR4912.