Objective and design: To evaluate a cohort of patients with major depression to examine the effect of competing demands on depression care during multiple visits over 6 months.
Participants and setting: Ninety-two patients with 5 or more symptoms of depression and no recent depression treatment were evaluated by 12 primary care physicians in 6 practices in the usual-care arm of an effectiveness trial of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Depression Guidelines.
Main outcome measure: Treatment was considered to be initiated if the patient reported starting a guideline-concordant antidepressant medication or making a visit for specialty counseling. Treatment completion was defined as either a 3-month course of guideline-concordant antidepressant use or completion of 8 or more specialty counseling visits.
Results: Among the 92 patients reporting no recent treatment at study enrollment, 57% reported starting and 17% reported completing a course of guideline-concordant antidepressant medication and or specialty counseling at the 6-month interview. The severity of physical problems among patients with high enthusiasm for depression treatment decreased the odds that patients would initiate depression therapy. Severity of physical problems had no observable effect on completing depression therapy in the group of patients who initiated treatment.
Conclusions: Physical problems compete with depression for attention over multiple visits in untreated patients who are enthusiastic about getting care for their emotional problems. Interventions are needed for this high-risk group, because depression treatment could potentially enhance patients' treatment of their physical problems. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:1059-1064