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.