Most patients with depression who are treated by primary care physicians do not receive care consistent with quality standards, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Physicians had high rates of adherence to just one third of the 20 measures of quality that researchers examined and had low rates of adherence to nearly half of the treatment recommendations studied, according to the report in the September 4 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"These findings are important for patients since most cases of depression are diagnosed and treated in primary care settings," said senior author Dr. Lisa V. Rubenstein, the study's senior author, and a senior scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, and a physician at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. "This shows that additional efforts are needed to improve the treatment of depression."
The study also found that patients who received better-quality care reported fewer symptoms of depression up to two years after the start of treatment. The findings are among the first linking quality guidelines for depression treatment with improved patient outcomes in community settings.
"These are initial findings, but they suggest that programs that encourage doctors to follow treatment guidelines can help improve the long-term outlook for people with depression," said Rubenstein, who also is affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Previous studies have shown that primary care providers do a poor job following guidelines for antidepressant use or psychotherapy. The RAND study is one of the first to assess primary care providers' adherence to a comprehensive set of treatment guidelines for depression.
Researchers from RAND Health examined the experiences of health care providers and patients who took part from 1996 to 1998 in the Quality Improvement for Depression collaboration, which was designed to
|Contact: Warren Robak|