Background: Schizophrenia spectrum disorders exert a large and disproportionate economic impact. Early intervention services may be able to alleviate the burden of schizophrenia spectrum disorders on diagnosed individuals, caregivers, and society at large. Economic analyses of observational studies have supported investments in specialized team-based care for early psychosis; however, questions remain regarding the economic viability of first-episode services in the fragmented U.S. healthcare system. The clinic for Specialized Treatment Early in Psychosis (STEP) was established in 2006, to explicitly model a nationally-relevant U.S. public-sector early intervention service. The purpose of this study was to conduct an economic evaluation of STEP, a Coordinated Specialty Care service (CSC) based in a U.S. State-funded community mental health center, relative to usual treatment (UT). Methods: Eligible patients were within 5 years of psychosis onset and had no more than 12 weeks of lifetime antipsychotic exposure. Participants were randomized to STEP or UT. The annual per-patient cost of the STEP intervention per se was estimated assuming a steady-state caseload of 30 patients. A cost-offset analysis was conducted to estimate the net value of STEP from a third-party payer perspective. Participant healthcare service utilization was evaluated at 6 months and over the entire 12 months post randomization. Generalized linear model multivariable regressions were used to estimate the effect of STEP on healthcare costs over time, and generate predicted mean costs, which were combined with the per-patient cost of STEP. Results: The annual per-patient cost of STEP was $1,984. STEP participants were significantly less likely to have any inpatient or ED visits; among individuals who did use such services in a given period, the associated costs were significantly lower for STEP participants at month 12. We did not observe a similar effect with regard to other healthcare services. The predicted average total costs were lower for STEP than UT, indicating a net benefit for STEP of $1,029 at month 6 and $2,991 at month 12; however, the differences were not statistically significant. Conclusions: Our findings are promising with regard to the value of STEP to third-party payers.
- EARLY INTERVENTION