Context: Both antidepressant medication and structured psychotherapy have been proven efficacious, but less than one third of people with depressive disorders receive effective levels of either treatment.
Objective: To compare usual primary care for depression with 2 intervention programs: telephone care management and telephone care management plus telephone psychotherapy.
Design: Three-group randomized controlled trial with allocation concealment and blinded outcome assessment conducted between November 2000 and May 2002.
Setting and participants: A total of 600 patients beginning antidepressant treatment for depression were systematically sampled from 7 group-model primary care clinics; patients already receiving psychotherapy were excluded.
Interventions: Usual primary care; usual care plus a telephone care management program including at least 3 outreach calls, feedback to the treating physician, and care coordination; usual care plus care management integrated with a structured 8-session cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy program delivered by telephone.
Main outcome measures: Blinded telephone interviews at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months assessed depression severity (Hopkins Symptom Checklist Depression Scale and the Patient Health Questionnaire), patient-rated improvement, and satisfaction with treatment. Computerized administrative data examined use of antidepressant medication and outpatient visits.
Results: Treatment participation rates were 97% for telephone care management and 93% for telephone care management plus psychotherapy. Compared with usual care, the telephone psychotherapy intervention led to lower mean Hopkins Symptom Checklist Depression Scale depression scores (P =.02), a higher proportion of patients reporting that depression was "much improved" (80% vs 55%, P<.001), and a higher proportion of patients "very satisfied" with depression treatment (59% vs 29%, P<.001). The telephone care management program had smaller effects on patient-rated improvement (66% vs 55%, P =.04) and satisfaction (47% vs 29%, P =.001); effects on mean depression scores were not statistically significant.
Conclusions: For primary care patients beginning antidepressant treatment, a telephone program integrating care management and structured cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy can significantly improve satisfaction and clinical outcomes. These findings suggest a new public health model of psychotherapy for depression including active outreach and vigorous efforts to improve access to and motivation for treatment.