Long-term Effectiveness of Disseminating Quality Improvement for Depression in Primary Care

Published In: Archives of General Psychiatry, v. 58, no. 7, July 2001, p. 696-703

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Cathy D. Sherbourne, Kenneth B. Wells, Naihua Duan, Jeanne Miranda, Jurgen Unutzer, Lisa H. Jaycox, Michael Schoenbaum, Lisa S. Meredith, Lisa V. Rubenstein

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BACKGROUND: This article addresses whether dissemination of short-term quality improvement (QI) interventions for depression to primary care practices improves patients' clinical outcomes and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) over 2 years, relative to usual care (UC). METHODS: The sample included 1299 patients with current depressive symptoms and 12-month, lifetime, or no depressive disorder from 46 primary care practices in 6 managed care organizations. Clinics were randomized to UC or 1 of 2 QI programs that included training local experts and nurse specialists to provide clinician and patient education, assessment, and treatment planning, plus either nurse care managers for medication follow-up (QI-meds) or access to trained psychotherapists (QI-therapy). Outcomes were assessed every 6 months for 2 years. RESULTS: For most outcomes, differences between intervention and UC patients were not sustained for the full 2 years. However, QI-therapy reduced overall poor outcomes compared with UC by about 8 percentage points throughout 2 years, and by 10 percentage points compared with QI-meds at 24 months. Both interventions improved patients' clinical and role outcomes, relative to UC, over 12 months (eg, a 10-11 and 6-7 percentage point difference in probable depression at 6 and 12 months, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: While most outcome improvements were not sustained over the full 2 study years, findings suggest that flexible dissemination of short-term, QI programs in managed primary care can improve patient outcomes well after program termination. Models that support integrated psychotherapy and medication-based treatment strategies in primary care have the potential for relatively long-term patient benefits.

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