Organizational cost of quality improvement for depression care

Health Serv Res. 2009 Feb;44(1):225-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2008.00911.x.


Objective: We documented organizational costs for depression care quality improvement (QI) to develop an evidence-based, Veterans Health Administration (VA) adapted depression care model for primary care practices that performed well for patients, was sustained over time, and could be spread nationally in VA.

Data sources and study setting: Project records and surveys from three multistate VA administrative regions and seven of their primary care practices.

Study design: Descriptive analysis.

Data collection: We documented project time commitments and expenses for 86 clinical QI and 42 technical expert support team participants for 4 years from initial contact through care model design, Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles, and achievement of stable workloads in which models functioned as routine care. We assessed time, salary costs, and costs for conference calls, meetings, e-mails, and other activities.

Principle findings: Over an average of 27 months, all clinics began referring patients to care managers. Clinical participants spent 1,086 hours at a cost of $84,438. Technical experts spent 2,147 hours costing $197,787. Eighty-five percent of costs derived from initial regional engagement activities and care model design.

Conclusions: Organizational costs of the QI process for depression care in a large health care system were significant, and should be accounted for when planning for implementation of evidence-based depression care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Depression / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Total Quality Management / economics*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / economics*
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / organization & administration