Improving primary care for older adults with cancer and depression

Jesse R Fann, Ming-Yu Fan, Jürgen Unützer
Journal of General Internal Medicine 2009, 24 Suppl 2: S417-24

BACKGROUND: Depression is common among older cancer patients, but little is known about the optimal approach to caring for this population. This analysis evaluates the effectiveness of the Improving Mood-Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment (IMPACT) program, a stepped care management program for depression in primary care patients who had an ICD-9 cancer diagnosis.

METHODS: Two hundred fifteen cancer patients were identified from the 1,801 participants in the parent study. Subjects were 60 years or older with major depression (18%), dysthymic disorder (33%), or both (49%), recruited from 18 primary care clinics belonging to 8 health-care organizations in 5 states. Patients were randomly assigned to the IMPACT intervention (n = 112) or usual care (n = 103). Intervention patients had access for up to 12 months to a depression care manager who was supervised by a psychiatrist and a primary care provider and who offered education, care management, support of antidepressant management, and brief, structured psychosocial interventions including behavioral activation and problem-solving treatment.

RESULTS: At 6 and 12 months, 55% and 39% of intervention patients had a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms (SCL-20) from baseline compared to 34% and 20% of usual care participants (P = 0.003 and P = 0.029). Intervention patients also experienced greater remission rates (P = 0.031), more depression-free days (P < 0.001), less functional impairment (P = 0.011), and greater quality of life (P = 0.039) at 12 months than usual care participants.

CONCLUSIONS: The IMPACT collaborative care program appears to be feasible and effective for depression among older cancer patients in diverse primary care settings.

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