Differences in Depression Care for Men and Women Among Veterans with and Without Psychiatric Comorbidities

Published in: Women's Health Issues, Available online 20 December 2016

Posted on RAND.org on January 27, 2017

by Christine A. Lam, Cathy D. Sherbourne, Lillian Gelberg, Martin L. Lee, Alexis K. Huynh, Karen Chu, Jennifer L. Strauss, Maureen E. Metzger, Edward Post, Lisa V. Rubenstein, et al.

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BACKGROUND: Depression is common among primary care patients, affecting more women than men. Women veterans are an extreme but growing minority among patients seeking care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an organization historically designed to serve men. Little is known about gender differences in depression care quality within VA primary care population.  PURPOSE: This works assesses the gender differences in depression care among veterans using longitudinal electronic measures.  METHODS: We undertook a cross-sectional study of all veteran VA primary care users with a new episode of depression from federal fiscal year 2010, covering nine geographically diverse regions. We assessed the quality of depression care based on receipt of minimally appropriate depression treatment within 1 year of a new episode of depression and on receipt of depression-related follow-up visits within 180 days. Minimally appropriate treatment and follow-up were operationalized as meeting or exceeding a minimally appropriate threshold for care, based on national quality measures and expert panel consensus. Regression models were used to produce predicted probabilities for each process outcome accounting for the presence or absence of other psychiatric comorbidities. All models were adjusted for model covariates and clinic clusters (404 sites).  MAIN FINDINGS: In 2010, 110,603 veterans with a primary care visit had a new episode of depression; 10,094 (9%) were women. In multivariate analyses, women had modest yet significantly higher rates of minimally appropriate depression treatment than men, whether patients had depression only (79% of women vs. 76% of men; p < .001) or depression along with other psychiatric comorbidities (92% of women vs. 91% or men; p < .001). There were no significant gender differences for rate of receipt of follow-up for depression at 180 days. Interactions between gender and other psychiatric comorbidities were not significant.  CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that the VA is achieving comparable depression care between genders at minimally appropriate thresholds.

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