Objective: A number of effective treatments for bulimia nervosa have been developed, but they are infrequently used, in part due to problems with dissemination. The goal of this study was to examine the cost effectiveness of telemedicine delivery of cognitive behavioral therapy for bulimia nervosa.
Method: A randomized controlled trial of face-to-face versus telemedicine cognitive behavioral therapy for bulimia nervosa. One hundred twenty eight women with DSM-IV bulimia nervosa or eating disorder, not otherwise specified subsyndromal variants of bulimia nervosa were randomized to 20 sessions of treatment over 16 weeks. A cost effectiveness analysis from a societal perspective was conducted.
Results: The total cost per recovered (abstinent) subject was $9324.68 for face-to-face CBT, and $7300.40 for telemedicine CBT. The cost differential was accounted for largely by therapist travel costs. Sensitivity analyses examining therapy session costs, gasoline costs and telemedicine connection costs yielded fundamentally similar results.
Discussion: In this study, CBT delivered face-to-face and via telemedicine were similarly effective, and telemedicine delivery cost substantially less. These findings underscore the potential applicability of telemedicine approaches to eating disorder treatment and psychiatric treatment in general.