Adding Follow-Up Calls To Anxiety Care Improved Treatment Outcomes In New Study

Mar 3, 2017

Anxiety treatment that integrates regular telephone follow-ups may be more effective than traditional treatment through a primary care physician alone.

The finding is the result of a University of Pittsburgh-led study that focused mainly on anxiety and panic disorders. Of a total 329 patients referred from their UPMC-affiliated practices, researchers selected 250 who were considered “highly anxious.” Researchers randomly chose some “highly anxious” participants to receive phone call follow-ups from care managers, in addition to their regular care.

The care managers who called the patients were college educated, but not necessarily mental health professionals and provided basic tips, such as stress-relief techniques and encouraged healthy habits, like being mindful of alcohol consumption, getting enough sleep and exercising.

“The intervention worked,” said Dr. Bruce Rollman, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Behavioral Health and Smart Technology. “The patients in our telephone delivery intervention (saw) significantly improved quality of life and anxiety and panic symptoms, compared to doctor’s usual care.”

After 12 months, more than half of the patients who received phone calls reported less anxiety symptoms than their counter parts who only received traditional care, Rollman said. Black participants and male participants showed the most improvement with telephone intervention. 

Rollman said the findings are significant because the same is easily replicated elsewhere and doesn’t cost much.

“Everything was done over the telephone, we addressed multiple anxiety disorders,” he said.

Rollman said this is one of only a few studies focusing solely on anxiety and added that he hopes it spurs more studies into the disorder. The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.