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Guided Digital Cognitive Behavioral Program for Anxiety in Primary Care: Propensity-Matched Controlled Trial.

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold standard treatment for adult anxiety disorders but is often not readily available in a scalable manner in many clinical settings. OBJECTIVE:This study examines the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a coach-facilitated digital cognitive behavioral program for anxious adults in primary care. METHODS:In an open trial, patients who screened positive for anxiety (General Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD7] score ?5) were offered the digital cognitive behavioral program (active group, n=593). Primary outcomes included anxiety, quality of life (QoL), and ambulatory medical use over 6 months. Intent-to-treat (ITT) and modified intent-to-treat (mITT) analyses were completed. Subsequently, we compared the outcomes of participants with those of a matched control group receiving primary care as usual (CAU; n=316). RESULTS:More than half of the patients downloaded the cognitive behavioral mobile app program and about 60% of these were considered engaged, which was defined as completion of ?3 techniques. The active group demonstrated medium size effects on reducing anxiety symptoms (effect size d=0.44; P<.001) and improving mental health QoL (d=0.49; P<.001) and showed significantly improved physical health QoL (d=0.39; P=.002) and a decreased likelihood of high utilization of outpatient medical care (odds ratio=0.49; P<.001). The active group did not significantly outperform the CAU group in anxiety reduction or QoL improvement (d=0.20; P=.07). However, intent-to-treat analysis showed that the active group had a significantly lower likelihood of high utilization of outpatient medical care than the enhanced CAU group (P<.0001; odds ratio=0.09). CONCLUSIONS:A coach-facilitated digital cognitive behavioral program prescribed in primary care is feasible and acceptable. Primary care patients prescribed a digital cognitive behavioral program for anxiety experienced significant improvements in anxiety symptoms, QoL, and reduced medical utilization. This effect was observed even among patients with chronic medical conditions and behavioral health comorbidities. Although the primary outcomes in the active group did not improve significantly more than the CAU group, health care utilization declined, and some secondary outcomes improved in participants who engaged in the program compared to the CAU group. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03186872; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03186872.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6470461 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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