Online-Delivered Over Staff-Delivered Parenting Intervention for Young Children With Disruptive Behavior Problems: Cost-Minimization Analysis

Justin B. Ingels, University of Georgia
Phaedra S. Corso, Kennesaw State University
Ronald J. Prinz, University of South Carolina
Carol W. Metzler, Oregon Research Institute


Background: High-prevalence childhood mental health problems like early-onset disruptive behavior problems (DBPs) pose a significant public health challenge and necessitate interventions with adequate population reach. The treatment approach of choice for childhood DBPs, namely evidence-based parenting intervention, has not been sufficiently disseminated when relying solely on staff-delivered services. Online-delivered parenting intervention is a promising strategy, but the cost minimization of this delivery model for reducing child DBPs is unknown compared with the more traditional staff-delivered modality. Objective: This study aimed to examine the cost-minimization of an online parenting intervention for childhood disruptive behavior problems compared with the staff-delivered version of the same content. This objective, pursued in the context of a randomized trial, made use of cost data collected from parents and service providers. Methods: A cost-minimization analysis (CMA) was conducted comparing the online and staff-delivered parenting interventions. Families (N=334) with children 3-7 years old, who exhibited clinically elevated disruptive behavior problems, were randomly assigned to the two parenting interventions. Participants, delivery staff, and administrators provided data for the CMA concerning family participation time and expenses, program delivery time (direct and nondirect), and nonpersonnel resources (eg, space, materials, and access fee). The CMA was conducted using both intent-to-treat and per-protocol analytic approaches. Results: For the intent-to-treat analyses, the online parenting intervention reflected significantly lower program costs (t168=23.2; P<.001), family costs (t185=9.2; P<.001), and total costs (t171=19.1; P<.001) compared to the staff-delivered intervention. The mean incremental cost difference between the interventions was $1164 total costs per case. The same pattern of significant differences was confirmed in the per-protocol analysis based on the families who completed their respective intervention, with a mean incremental cost difference of $1483 per case. All costs were valued or adjusted in 2017 US dollars. Conclusions: The online-delivered parenting intervention in this randomized study produced substantial cost minimization compared with the staff-delivered intervention providing the same content. Cost minimization was driven primarily by personnel time and, to a lesser extent, by facilities costs and family travel time. The CMA was accomplished with three critical conditions in place: (1) the two intervention delivery modalities (ie, online and staff) held intervention content constant; (2) families were randomized to the two parenting interventions; and (3) the online-delivered intervention was previously confirmed to be non-inferior to the staff-delivered intervention in significantly reducing the primary outcome, child disruptive behavior problems. Given those conditions, cost minimization for the online parenting intervention was unequivocal.