JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Two-year effects of quality improvement programs on medication management for depression

J Unützer, L Rubenstein, W J Katon, L Tang, N Duan, I T Lagomasino, K B Wells
Archives of General Psychiatry 2001, 58 (10): 935-42
11576031

BACKGROUND: Significant underuse of evidence-based treatments for depression persists in primary care. We examined the effects of 2 primary care-based quality improvement (QI) programs on medication management for depression.

METHODS: A total of 1356 patients with depressive symptoms (60% with depressive disorders and 40% with subthreshold depression) from 46 primary care practices in 6 nonacademic managed care organizations were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of QI for depression. Clinics were randomized to usual care or to 1 of 2 QI programs that involved training of local experts who worked with patients' regular primary care providers (physicians and nurse practitioners) to improve care for depression. In the QI-medications program, depression nurse specialists provided patient education and assessment and followed up patients taking antidepressants for up to 12 months. In the QI-therapy program, depression nurse specialists provided patient education, assessment, and referral to study-trained psychotherapists.

RESULTS: Participants enrolled in both QI programs had significantly higher rates of antidepressant use than those in the usual care group during the initial 6 months of the study (52% in the QI-medications group, 40% in the QI-therapy group, and 33% in the usual care group). Patients in the QI-medications group had higher rates of antidepressant use and a reduction in long-term use of minor tranquilizers for up to 2 years, compared with patients in the QI-therapy or usual care group.

CONCLUSIONS: Quality improvement programs for depression in which mental health specialists collaborate with primary care providers can substantially increase rates of antidepressant treatment. Active follow-up by a depression nurse specialist in the QI-medications program was associated with longer-term increases in antidepressant use than in the QI model without such follow-up.

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