Protocol for an economic evaluation of scalable strategies to improve mental health among perinatal women: non-specialist care delivered via telemedicine vs. specialist care delivered in-person

BMC Psychiatry. 2023 Nov 8;23(1):817. doi: 10.1186/s12888-023-05318-2.


Background: Perinatal depression affects an estimated 1 in 5 women in North America during the perinatal period, with annualized lifetime costs estimated at $20.6 billion CAD in Canada and over $45.9 billion USD in the US. Access to psychological treatments remains limited for most perinatal women suffering from depression and anxiety. Some barriers to effective care can be addressed through task-sharing to non-specialist providers and through telemedicine platforms. The cost-effectiveness of these strategies compared to traditional specialist and in-person models remains unknown. This protocol describes an economic evaluation of non-specialist providers and telemedicine, in comparison to specialist providers and in-person sessions within the ongoing Scaling Up Maternal Mental healthcare by Increasing access to Treatment (SUMMIT) trial.

Methods: The economic evaluation will be undertaken alongside the SUMMIT trial. SUMMIT is a pragmatic, randomized, non-inferiority trial across five North American study sites (N = 1,226) of the comparable effectiveness of two types of providers (specialist vs. non-specialist) and delivery modes (telemedicine vs. in-person) of a behavioural activation treatment for perinatal depressive and anxiety symptoms. The primary economic evaluation will be a cost-utility analysis. The outcome will be the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio, which will be expressed as the additional cost required to achieve an additional quality-adjusted life-year, as assessed by the EuroQol 5-Dimension 5-Level instrument. A secondary cost-effectiveness analysis will use participants' depressive symptom scores. A micro-costing analysis will be conducted to estimate the resources/costs required to implement and sustain the interventions; healthcare resource utilization will be captured via self-report. Data will be pooled and analysed using uniform price and utility weights to determine cost-utility across all trial sites. Secondary country-specific cost-utility and cost-effectiveness analyses will also be completed. Sensitivity analyses will be conducted, and cost-effectiveness acceptability-curves will be generated, in all instances.

Discussion: Results of this study are expected to inform key decisions related to dissemination and scale up of evidence-based psychological interventions in Canada, the US, and possibly worldwide. There is potential impact on real-world practice by informing decision makers of the long-term savings to the larger healthcare setting in services to support perinatal women with common mental health conditions.

Keywords: Economic evaluation; Perinatal mental health; Protocol; Randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Depressive Disorder*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Telemedicine* / methods