Randomized trial of a depression management program in high utilizers of medical care

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Apr;9(4):345-51. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.4.345.


Background: High utilizers of nonpsychiatric health care services have disproportionally high rates of undiagnosed or undertreated depression.

Objective: To determine the impact of offering a systematic primary care-based depression treatment program to depressed "high utilizers" not in active treatment.

Design: Randomized clinical trial.

Setting: One hundred sixty-three primary care practices in 3 health maintenance organizations located in different geographic regions of the United States.

Patients: A group of 1465 health maintenance organization members were identified as depressed high utilizers using a 2-stage telephone screening process. Eligibility criteria were met by 410 patients and 407 agreed to enroll: 218 in the depression management program (DMP) practices and 189 in the usual care (UC) group.

Intervention: The DMP included patient education materials, physician education programs, telephone-based treatment coordination, and antidepressant pharmacotherapy initiated and managed by patients' primary care physicians.

Main outcome measures: Depression severity was measured using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (Ham-D) and functional status using the Medical Outcomes Study 20-item short form (SF-20) subscales. Outpatient visit and hospitalization rates were measured using the health plan's encounter data.

Results: Based on an intent-to-treat analysis, at least 3 antidepressant prescriptions were filled in the first 6 months by 151 (69.3%) of 218 of DMP patients vs 35 (18.5%) of 189 in UC (P < .001). Improvements in Ham-D scores were significantly greater in the intervention group at 6 weeks (P = .04), 3 months (P = .02), 6 months (P < .001), and 12 months (P < .001). At 12 months, DMP intervention patients were more improved than UC patients on the mental health, social functioning, and general health perceptions scales of the SF-20 (P < .05 for all).

Conclusion: In depressed high utilizers not already in active treatment, a systematic primary care-based treatment program can substantially increase adequate antidepressant treatment, decrease depression severity, and improve general health status compared with usual care.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Primary Health Care
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Sertraline