Objective: Screening for mental illness in primary care is widely recommended, but little is known about the evaluation, treatment, and long-term management processes that follow screening. The aim of this study was to examine and describe the quality of mental health care for persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and anxiety/depressive disorders, as measured by adherence to practice guidelines.
Method: This retrospective chart review examined data for 102 primary care and mental health care patients with COPD who were diagnosed, using Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV criteria, with major depressive disorder, dysthymia, depression not otherwise specified, generalized anxiety disorder, or anxiety not otherwise specified. Data were gathered from primary care progress notes from the year prior to enrollment in a randomized controlled trial (enrollment was from July 2002 to April 2004). We compared the care received by these patients over 1 year with that recommended by practice guidelines. Charts were abstracted using a checklist of recommended practice guidelines for diagnostic evaluation, acute treatment, and long-term management of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Results: Fifty (49%) of the 102 patients were recognized during the review year as having an anxiety or depressive disorder. Eighteen patients were newly assessed for depressive or anxiety disorders during the chart review year. Patients followed in primary care alone, compared with those who were comanaged by mental health care providers, were less likely to have guideline-adherent care.
Conclusion: Depressive and anxiety disorders are recognized in about half of patients; however, guideline-supported diagnostic evaluation, acute treatment (except for medications), and long-term management rarely occur in the primary care setting. To improve the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders in primary care, the process of care delivery must be understood and changed.