Online remote behavioural intervention for tics in 9- to 17-year-olds: the ORBIT RCT with embedded process and economic evaluation

Hollis C, Hall CL, Khan K, Le Novere M, Marston L, Jones R, Hunter R, Brown BJ, Sanderson C, Andren P, Bennett SD, Chamberlain LR, Davies EB, Evans A, Kouzoupi N, McKenzie C, Heyman I, Kilgariff J, Glazebrook C, Mataix-Cols D, Serlachius E, Murray E, Murphy T
Record ID 32018005309
Authors' objectives: Behavioural therapy for tics is difficult to access, and little is known about its effectiveness when delivered online. To investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of an online-delivered, therapist- and parent-supported therapy for young people with tic disorders. Tic disorders including Tourette syndrome and chronic tic disorders are common conditions that affect approximately 1% of the population in the UK. Young people with tics often report substantial impairment, thus it is important that they have access to evidence-based treatment. Face-to-face behavioural therapy (BT) such as exposure and response prevention (ERP) may be offered to some young people. However, due to a lack of trained therapists, there are often difficulties accessing BT, and there is a better need to understand the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the online delivery of such therapy. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of therapist-guided, parent-assisted, internet-based ERP BT for tics in young people with tic disorders compared to online psychoeducation. Secondary objectives included (1) optimising the design of the intervention, (2) undertaking an internal pilot, (3) evaluating cost-effectiveness, (4) establishing whether the efficacy is maintained longer term, (5) understanding the mechanisms of impact of the intervention and (6) identifying barriers to implementation.
Authors' results and conclusions: Two hundred and twenty-four participants were randomised to the intervention (n = 112) or control (n = 112) group. Participants were mostly male (n = 177; 79%), with a mean age of 12 years. At 3 months the estimated mean difference in Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-total tic severity score between the groups adjusted for baseline and site was −2.29 points (95% confidence interval −3.86 to −0.71) in favour of therapy (effect size −0.31, 95% confidence interval −0.52 to −0.10). This effect was sustained throughout to the final follow-up at 18 months (−2.01 points, 95% confidence interval −3.86 to −0.15; effect size −0.27, 95% confidence interval −0.52 to −0.02). At 18 months the mean incremental cost per participant of the intervention compared to the control was £662 (95% confidence interval −£59 to £1384), with a mean incremental quality-adjusted life-year of 0.040 (95% confidence interval −0.004 to 0.083) per participant. The mean incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained was £16,708. The intervention was acceptable and delivered with high fidelity. Parental engagement predicted child engagement and more positive clinical outcomes. Online, therapist-supported behavioural therapy for young people with tic disorders is clinically and cost-effective in reducing tics, with durable benefits extending up to 18 months. The trial recruited and retained participants exceeding the pre-specified criteria for the internal pilot and therefore proceeded to the full trial. In total 445 candidates signed up to the study and were assessed for eligibility, of which 221 potential participants were excluded (90 did not meet inclusion criteria, 84 declined to participate and 47 were unable to contact family). This meant 224 participants were enrolled and randomly assigned (1 : 1) to either the ERP BT group (n = 112) or psychoeducation group (n = 112). The characteristics of the two groups were similar at baseline. The enrolled patients were mostly male (n = 177; 79%) and of white ethnicity (n = 195; 87%). Only 13% of participants were receiving tic medication. Adherence to the intervention was good in 99 (88%) of the 112 participants in the ERP group, and 105 (94%) of the 112 participants in the psychoeducation group were classified as treatment completers (i.e. completing at least the first four chapters). Retention to the primary outcome at the 3-month primary end point (90%) and 6-month follow-up (> 80%) was excellent. Retention to the primary outcome measure remained high at 12 months (81% in both arms) and 18 months (> 79% in both arms). The primary analysis showed that participants in the ERP group [16% reduction, standard deviation (SD) 1.1] had a greater decrease in tics than those in the psychoeducation group (6% reduction, SD 1.0) at 3 months (primary end point). The estimated mean difference in YGTSS-TTSS change between the groups adjusted for baseline and site was −2.29 points [95% confidence interval (CI) −3.86 to −0.71] in favour of ERP, with an effect size of −0.31 (95% CI −0.52 to −0.10). This effect was sustained at 6 months, with a mean decrease of 6.9 points (24%, SD 1.2) in the ERP group versus 3.4 points (12%, SD 1.0) in the psychoeducation group. For phase 2, participants in the ERP group continued to have a greater decrease in tics than the control group. The estimated mean difference in YGTSS-TTSS between groups adjusting for baseline and site at 12 months was −2.64 points (95% CI −4.48 to −0.79), with an effect size of −0.36 (95% CI −0.61 to −0.11), at 18 months it was −2.01 points (95% CI −3.86 to −0.15), with an effect size of −0.27 (95% CI −0.52 to −0.02), in favour of the ERP group. In addition, extended follow-up showed those receiving online ERP compared with online psychoeducation had reduced scores for low mood and anxiety at 12 and 18 months and superior tic-specific quality of life, with the largest effects seen at 18 months. The direct cost of the intervention was £155 per person, including £104.57 for the online platform, supervision and training and a mean variable cost of £50.43 per participant for therapist time in the trial. At 18 months, using proxy parent-completed CHU9D responses, there were a mean additional 0.040 (95% CI −0.004 to 0.083) quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) per participant in the ERP group compared with psychoeducation, with an addition mean cost per participant of £662 (95% CI −£59 to £1384). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio in the primary analysis was £16,708 per QALY gained from a health and social care cost perspective at 18 months. In the 10-year long-term decision model, online ERP cost £537 less per participant than face-to-face BT and resulted in 0.02 fewer QALYs. Two serious adverse events (SAEs) occurred (hospital attendance due to one ‘collapse’ and one ‘tic attack’), both in the active control psychoeducation group, neither of which were related to the study intervention. The process evaluation found that the ERP intervention was implemented with high fidelity, and participants found the intervention acceptable and satisfactory. Engagement was high, with child participants completing an average of 7.5/10 chapters and 99/112 (88.4%) participants completing the minimum of the first four chapters (the predefined threshold for effective dose). Parental engagement was the only significant independent predictor of child engagement. Improvement in tic severity and overall clinical condition was not moderated by the relationship between demographic or baseline clinical factors and engagement and no mediators were found. However, level of parental engagement was associated with overall clinical improvement, and this relationship was illuminated by the qualitative data. Implications for health care The findings demonstrate that online, therapist-supported ERP for young people with chronic tic disorders is clinically effective at reducing tic severity. Therefore, this is an efficient public mental health approach to supporting young people with tics. The intervention can be delivered at lower cost than standard face-to-face BT and may also result in improved service efficiencies, allowing a greater number of young people to access evidence-based care. Future research implications Further ‘field trials’ should be conducted to explore the clinical and service implications of delivering the intervention in real-world settings. Given that online interventions are context dependent, exploring the validity of these findings in different cultures/countries is important. Future research should explore where online, therapist-supported ERP best fits in the tic disorder care pathway and how online and face-to-face therapy can be best combined (e.g. non-responders to online ERP are ‘stepped up’ to face-to-face therapy).
Authors' methods: Single-blind, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial, with 3-month (primary end point) and 6-month post-randomisation follow-up. Participants were individually randomised (1 : 1), using on online system, with block randomisations, stratified by site. Naturalistic follow-up was conducted at 12 and 18 months post-randomisation when participants were free to access non-trial interventions. A subset of participants participated in a process evaluation. Two hospitals (London and Nottingham) in England also accepting referrals from patient identification centres and online self-referrals. Children aged 9–17 years (1) with Tourette syndrome or chronic tic disorder, (2) with a Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-total tic severity score of 15 or more (or > 10 with only motor or vocal tics) and (3) having not received behavioural therapy for tics in the past 12 months or started/stopped medication for tics within the past 2 months. Either 10 weeks of online, remotely delivered, therapist-supported exposure and response prevention therapy (intervention group) or online psychoeducation (control). We cannot separate the effects of digital online delivery and the therapy itself. The sample was predominately white and British, limiting generalisability. The design did not compare to face-to-face services. We conducted an individually randomised (1 : 1 ratio), multicentre trial, with an internal pilot and embedded process evaluation. Participants were assigned to either receive online, remotely delivered, therapist- and parent-supported ERP for tics or online, remotely delivered, therapist- and parent-supported psychoeducation for tics. Participants were recruited from the two study sites, 16 patient identification centres in England or could self-refer online via the study webpage or via Tourettes Action (a national charity for tics). The inclusion criteria were age between 9 and 17 years, with tics assessed on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS), able to provide written informed consent (parental consent for children aged < 16 years) and with a suitable device they could use to access the internet. Exclusion criteria included receiving a therapy for tics in the past 12 months, starting or stopping tic medication within the past 2 months and intellectual disability/substance use/anorexia nervosa/psychosis/suicidality, moderate/severe intellectual disability, risk to self or others or parent or young person unable to speak or read/write English. All potential participants attended a screening/baseline appointment at one of the two study centres. Participants who were eligible and consented were randomised into one of two study groups. In the intervention group participants received 10 weeks of the remotely delivered, therapist-guided ERP behaviour therapy. In the control group participants received 10 weeks of remotely delivered, therapist-guided psychoeducation about tics. Participants completed measures at the mid-treatment point (5 weeks) and at 3 and 6 months (this formed phase 1, per-protocol design). For phase 2 (a naturalist design), follow-up measures were obtained at 12 and 18 months. The primary outcome (at 3 months) was the total tic severity score (TTSS) on the YGTSS. Secondary outcomes included measures of tics (parent tic questionnaire), general difficulties (strengths and difficulties questionnaire), mood and anxiety (moods and feelings questionnaire and Spence Child Anxiety Scale), global functioning (Children’s Global Assessment Scale, Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement), adverse events, need for further treatment, treatment credibility and satisfaction and the Child and Adolescent Version of the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome Quality of Life Scale. Quality of life [child health utility 9D (CHU9D)] and resource use (modified child and adolescent service use schedule) data were also collected for the economic evaluation. Follow-up assessments were completed online or via telephone/Webex videoconferencing (YGTSS). The trial internal pilot evaluated recruitment rate, engagement with the intervention and retention to the primary outcome at 9 months into the trial and the results were reported to the relevant oversight committees (Trial Steering Committees and Data Monitoring Committee). A sub-sample of parents and young people in the intervention arm, clinicians and therapists were interviewed to explore barriers/facilitators to implementation and refine the intervention for future use, which formed part of the mixed-methods process evaluation. The quantitative data for the process evaluation included intervention usage metrics, clinical and demographic trial data and therapist contacts.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2023
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Tics
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Internet-Based Intervention
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Tic Disorders
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
Contact Name:
Contact Email:
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.