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Accuracy of self-referral in health anxiety: comparison of patients self-referring to internet-delivered treatment versus patients clinician-referred to face-to-face treatment

  • Ditte Hoffmann (a1), Charlotte Ulrikka Rask (a2), Erik Hedman-Lagerlöf (a3), Trine Eilenberg (a4) and Lisbeth Frostholm (a5)...

Abstract

Background

Severe health anxiety is a chronic and costly disorder if untreated. Patient self-referral may lower barriers to treatment and decrease diagnostic delay.

Aims

This study evaluated the accuracy of self-referral for severe health anxiety and compared characteristics of patients self-referred to internet-delivered treatment with patients referred by a clinician to face-to-face treatment.

Method

Two trials in the same clinic employed different referral methods for health anxiety, namely self-referral and clinician-referral (trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov: NCT01158430 and NCT02735434). The trials were conducted at different time points but with largely comparable eligibility criteria. The accuracy of the recruitment methods was compared by looking at the number of eligible patients in the two trials. Patients completed a baseline questionnaire and subsequently underwent a diagnostic interview by experienced clinicians. Mean differences in self-report and clinical data explored between-group demographic and clinical characteristics.

Results

In total, 101/151 (67%) self-referred patients were eligible compared with 126/254 (50%) clinician-referred patients (P = 0.001). Self-referred patients were 3.4 years older (P = 0.008) and had a somewhat higher educational level (P = 0.030). Patients who self-referred reported significantly higher levels of health anxiety, emotional distress and somatic symptoms compared with clinician-referred patients. Yet, they had less clinician-assessed comorbid anxiety disorders (P<0.001) and better physical health-related quality of life (P<0.001) suggesting a more distinct symptom profile.

Conclusions

Self-referral was found to be an accurate method to recruit highly relevant patients with treatment-demanding health anxiety. Thus, both self-referral and clinician-referral seem feasible and valid referral methods, but they may recruit patients with slightly different characteristics.

Declaration of interest

None.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Ditte Hoffmann, The Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, bldg. 2C, 1., 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Email: dittjese@rm.dk

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Accuracy of self-referral in health anxiety: comparison of patients self-referring to internet-delivered treatment versus patients clinician-referred to face-to-face treatment

  • Ditte Hoffmann (a1), Charlotte Ulrikka Rask (a2), Erik Hedman-Lagerlöf (a3), Trine Eilenberg (a4) and Lisbeth Frostholm (a5)...
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