Objectives: The aim of this study was to measure the quality of medical follow-up of depression in a universal-access health care system and identify its main correlates.
Methods: This retrospective cohort study of adult patients who received diagnoses of depression between April 2003 and March 2005 in Montreal used administrative data to measure the quality of medical follow-up within the first three months of diagnosis. Indicators of adequate follow-up care included having at least one outpatient visit to a family physician or a psychiatrist, the first follow-up visit within 30 days of diagnosis, more than half of follow-up visits with the same physician, and at least three follow-up visits.
Results: During the study period, 41,375 Montrealers aged 18 and older received a new diagnosis of depression. Among those, 90% (N=37,071) had at least one visit with a physician (family practitioner or psychiatrist) within the first three months of diagnosis, 59% (N=24,295) benefited from continuity with their usual provider, 50% (N=20,846) received a prompt follow-up visit, and 48% (N=19,819) had optimal contacts with practitioners. Medical follow-up was less adequate for older patients, male patients, patients living in very deprived neighborhoods, and patients with high morbidity levels. The quality of medical follow-up was better when both a family physician and a psychiatrist were involved.
Conclusions: The results suggest that universal access facilitates optimal practitioner contacts during the acute treatment phase of depression. However, despite universal access, the findings revealed that some inequities persist.