Quality of and patient satisfaction with primary health care for anxiety disorders

J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;72(7):970-6. doi: 10.4088/JCP.09m05626blu. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


Background: Most patients with anxiety disorders receive their care from primary care practitioners (PCPs). The purpose of this study was to evaluate quality of and patient satisfaction with primary health care for anxiety disorders.

Method: A survey was performed among 1,004 outpatients with anxiety disorders (diagnosed according to DSM-IV) referred by their PCPs from 17 primary care clinical settings (3 of which were university-affiliated) in 4 regions of the United States for participation in the Coordinated Anxiety Learning and Management (CALM) study, a therapeutic trial. Participating research institutions were the University of Washington at Seattle, the University of California at San Diego and Los Angeles, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock. Enrollment took place between June 2006 and April 2008. Patients were contacted by telephone after enrollment to provide information about previous care received (during the 6 months prior to referral) and satisfaction with that care. Quality-of-care indicators were self-reported type, dose, and duration of antianxiety medication treatment and self-reported psychotherapy with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) elements.

Results: A total of 576 patients (57.4%) had received an appropriate antianxiety medication in the previous 6 months, but only 289 patients (29.4% of 983 who answered this question) had received the medication at adequate dose for at least 2 months. A total of 465 patients (46.3%) had received some counseling with at least 1 element of CBT, but only 213 patients (21.2%) had received counseling with a strong (3+ elements) CBT focus. Overall, 416 patients (41.4%) had received quality pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy, and 81 patients (8.1%) had received both. Only 432 patients (44.8% of 964 who answered this question) were at least somewhat satisfied with their mental health care. Receipt of quality psychotherapy was the sole positive predictor (adjusted odds ratio = 2.71; 95% CI, 1.94-3.80; P < .0005) of satisfaction with mental health care for anxiety. Moreover, there was a dose-response relationship between the number of CBT elements consistently delivered and satisfaction with care (test for trend, z = 4.06, P < .0005).

Conclusions: Despite recognition of these patients' anxiety disorders and referral by their PCPs to an anxiety treatment study, fewer than half of the patients had in the prior 6 months received quality pharmacologic and/or psychosocial mental health care. Receipt of CBT-oriented, quality psychosocial (but not pharmacologic) care showed a strong dose-response relationship with satisfaction with mental health care.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00347269.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Panic Disorder / therapy
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00347269