Background: Case management provided by health care assistants (HCAs) is effective in improving primary care for depressive patients. Little is known on the implementation-related aspects of case management performed in small family practices.
Objective: To explore family doctors' perspectives on clinical and organizational aspects of implementation of case management and perceived practice-related aspects associated with patient care after 1 year's experience of HCAs providing case management for depressive patients in their practices.
Methods: This qualitative study was nested in a cluster-randomized trial on case management provided by practice-based HCAs for patients with major depression in Germany. We used semi-structured interview guides and performed audio-taped interviews with family doctors. Full transcription and thematic content analysis were carried out.
Results: Twenty-three family doctors were interviewed. The family doctors perceived case management as beneficial to patients and reported that it improved their consultation styles and doctor-patient relationships. They implemented case management elements into their everyday day work using 'concrete', 'subsumed' or 'progressive' implementation styles.
Conclusions: Family doctors perceived practice-based case management by HCAs as beneficial for patient care. Different implementation styles may be appropriate, depending on the health care setting, and this requires further evaluation.