Five-year Impact of Quality Improvement for Depression

Results of a Group-Level Randomized Controlled Trial

Published in: Archives of General Psychiatry, v. 61, no. 4, Apr. 2004, p. 378-386

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Kenneth B. Wells, Cathy D. Sherbourne, Michael Schoenbaum, Susan L. Ettner, Naihua Duan, Jeanne Miranda, Jurgen Unutzer, Lisa V. Rubenstein

BACKGROUND: Quality improvement (QI) programs for depressed primary care patients can improve health outcomes for 6 to 28 months; effects for longer than 28 months are unknown. OBJECTIVE: To assess how QI for depression affects health outcomes, quality of care, and health outcome disparities at 57-month follow-up. DESIGN: A group-level randomized controlled trial. SETTING: Forty-six primary care practices in 6 managed care organizations. PATIENTS: Of 1356 primary care patients who screened positive for depression and enrolled in the trial, 991 (73%, including 451 Latinos and African Americans) completed 57-month telephone follow-up. INTERVENTIONS: Clinics were randomly assigned to usual care or to 1 of 2 QI programs supporting QI teams, provider training, nurse assessment, and patient education, plus resources to support medication management (QI-meds) or psychotherapy (QI-therapy) for 6 to 12 months. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Probable depressive disorder in the previous 6 months, mental health-related quality of life in the previous 30 days, primary care or mental health specialty visits, counseling or antidepressant medications in the previous 6 months, and unmet need, defined as depressed but not receiving appropriate care. RESULTS: Combined QI-meds and QI-therapy, relative to usual care, reduced the percentage of participants with probable disorder at 5 years by 6.6 percentage points (P = .04). QI-therapy improved health outcomes and reduced unmet need for appropriate care among Latinos and African Americans combined but provided few long-term benefits among whites, reducing outcome disparities related to usual care (P = .04 for QI-ethnicity interaction for probable depressive disorder). CONCLUSIONS: Programs for QI for depressed primary care patients implemented by managed care practices can improve health outcomes 5 years after implementation and reduce health outcome disparities by markedly improving health outcomes and unmet need for appropriate care among Latinos and African Americans relative to whites; thus, equity was improved in the long run.

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