J Med Internet Res. 2019 Oct 29;21(10):e14261. doi: 10.2196/14261.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment, but access is often restricted due to costs and limited availability of trained therapists. Blending online and face-to-face CBT for depression might improve cost-effectiveness and treatment availability.
This pilot study aimed to examine the costs and effectiveness of blended CBT compared with standard CBT for depressed patients in specialized mental health care to guide further research and development of blended CBT.
Patients were randomly allocated to blended CBT (n=53) or standard CBT (n=49). Blended CBT consisted of 10 weekly face-to-face sessions and 9 Web-based sessions. Standard CBT consisted of 15 to 20 weekly face-to-face sessions. At baseline and 10, 20, and 30 weeks after start of treatment, self-assessed depression severity, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and costs were measured. Clinicians, blinded to treatment allocation, assessed psychopathology at all time points. Data were analyzed using linear mixed models. Uncertainty intervals around cost and effect estimates were estimated with 5000 Monte Carlo simulations.
Blended CBT treatment duration was mean 19.0 (SD 12.6) weeks versus mean 33.2 (SD 23.0) weeks in standard CBT (P<.001). No significant differences were found between groups for depressive episodes (risk difference [RD] 0.06, 95% CI -0.05 to 0.19), response to treatment (RD 0.03, 95% CI -0.10 to 0.15), and QALYs (mean difference 0.01, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.04). Mean societal costs for blended CBT were €1183 higher than standard CBT. This difference was not significant (95% CI -399 to 2765). Blended CBT had a probability of being cost-effective compared with standard CBT of 0.02 per extra QALY and 0.37 for an additional treatment response, at a ceiling ratio of €25,000. For health care providers, mean costs for blended CBT were €176 lower than standard CBT. This difference was not significant (95% CI -659 to 343). At €0 per additional unit of effect, the probability of blended CBT being cost-effective compared with standard CBT was 0.75. The probability increased to 0.88 at a ceiling ratio of €5000 for an added treatment response, and to 0.85 at €10,000 per QALY gained. For avoiding new depressive episodes, blended CBT was deemed not cost-effective compared with standard CBT because the increase in costs was associated with negative effects.
This pilot study shows that blended CBT might be a promising way to engage depressed patients in specialized mental health care. Compared with standard CBT, blended CBT was not considered cost-effective from a societal perspective but had an acceptable probability of being cost-effective from the health care provider perspective. Results should be carefully interpreted due to the small sample size. Further research in larger replication studies focused on optimizing the clinical effects of blended CBT and its budget impact is warranted.
KEYWORDS: blended cognitive behavioral therapy; cost-effectiveness; depression; randomized controlled trial; specialized mental health care