Objective: To determine the feasibility of conducting a cluster randomised trial in Australia of the effectiveness of general practitioner-supported delivery of internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and enhanced psychological care.
Design, setting and participants: Cluster randomised trial involving patients attending general practices in Australia. Participating practices were randomly allocated to interventions. The study was conducted between January 2004 and January 2007.
Interventions: Enhanced GP care was delivered by doctors who had completed specific mental health training; the experimental condition consisted of enhanced GP care plus MoodGYM, an internet-based CBT intervention.
Main outcome measures: Demographic and behavioural characteristics of patients, and demographic and practice characteristics of GPs; time to resolution of psychological symptoms for patients involved in the longitudinal phase of the trial.
Results: 1571 patients attending 90 GPs from 84 general practices were identified as potentially suitable for recruitment. These patients had a mean age of 35 years, 76% were female, 84% had access to the internet for personal use, and 22% reported high or very high levels of psychological distress on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. The 90 GPs had a mean age of 49 years, 53% were female and 25% had completed formal mental health training. Of the 1571 screened patients, 340 reported high levels of psychological distress, but only 140 of these could be further assessed for eligibility in the trial. Of these 140, 83 patients with depression (attending 10 GPs in eight general practices) proceeded to randomisation. For these patients, the experimental intervention (enhanced GP care plus MoodGYM) tended to result in prompt and more sustained resolution of depressive symptoms.
Conclusion: Our capacity to conduct a definitive trial was limited by available resources. Preliminary data suggest that primary care patients with depression may derive additional benefits from an internet-based CBT program delivered in conjunction with enhanced psychological care from GPs.
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