Background: Many people with eating disorders (EDs) either do not access treatment, access it well after symptoms first start, or drop out of treatment. This study evaluated ways to improve early access to evidence-based interventions for those with EDs in a non-specialist community setting.
Methods: In an Australian regional community, links were formed between general medical practitioners and treatment providers (psychologists, mental health social workers and dietitians), who received ongoing training, feedback and support. Service users had access to 20–40 subsidised treatment sessions. Data were collected from 143 patients over 18 months. Our outcomes are reported according to the RE-AIM implementation framework: Reach (we measured uptake and treatment completion); Effectiveness (impact on disordered eating cognitions, body mass index, remission, and moderators of effectiveness including illness duration, previous treatment, presence of comorbidities, presence of a normative level of disordered eating, presence of any ED behaviours, weighing in treatment, multidisciplinary case conferencing, number of dietetic sessions); Adoption (drop-out and predictors); Implementation (barriers encountered); Maintenance (subsequent activity designed to embed new practices).
Results: Treatment was completed by 71%; significant large decreases in eating disorder cognitions were achieved; remission was obtained by 37% (intent-to-treat). Treatment completion was predicted by lower baseline levels of disordered eating, uptake of ≥ 3 dietetic sessions, and ≥ 2 team case conferences. Greater improvement over time was predicted by regular case conferencing and in-session weighing.
Conclusions: Implementation of this model in a regional community setting produced completion rates and outcomes comparable to those found in specialist clinical trials of ED treatments. Service providers identified care coordination as the most important factor to connect users to services and help navigate barriers to ongoing treatment.
Trial Registration: This research was an invited evaluation of a project implemented by the Australian Department of Health. The project did not introduce any new clinical practice but sought to improve access to evidence-based multidisciplinary treatment for people with EDs by removing four known systemic barriers: securing an accurate diagnosis, availability of multidisciplinary treatment, cost of treatment, and intensity of treatment. As such, the project did not require trial registration. Notwithstanding, this evaluation obtained ethics approval (Bellberry Human Research Ethics Committee, Application No: 2018-09-728-FR-1).
- Case conferencing
- Community mental health
- In-session weighing
- Research-practice gap