Biofeedback-Based Psychophysiological Treatment in a Primary Care Setting: An Initial Feasibility Study
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We sought to determine whether an intervention labeled “biofeedback” could be implemented with patients who were diagnosed with “functional” disorders (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyagia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Myofascial Pain, Anxiety with somatic features, or Noncardiac Chest Pain), in a primary care setting, and whether cost savings through lowered utilization of medical services would be realized. Seventy patients were initially randomized into a treatment group or comparison group based on willingness to participate. Ultimately, 19 patients completed treatment and 30 were followed through usual treatment as a comparison. Treatment patients completed symptom diaries while working with a biofeedback therapist in the primary care facility. Both group's medical expenses were tracked for 6 months prior to and 6 months after the treatment time interval. Patients in the treatment group lowered symptom frequency and severity significantly. Medical costs were differentially reduced in this group such that all costs were $72 less in the treatment group and $9 in the comparison for the 6 months following the treatment time period. (p < .001). Unfortunately, a large group of assigned treatment patients did not start or complete treatment. These patients had high initial costs and went up even higher post. No comparable group could be found among the controls, limiting any inference regarding cost/benefit. Biofeedback based interventions for “functional” disorders can be easily integrated into primary care settings, can reduce symptoms, and may be able to reduce overall medical costs in this group of patients known as heavy utilizers.
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