Background: Primary care practices provide a gate-keeping function in many health care systems. Since depressive disorders are highly prevalent in primary care settings, reliable detection and diagnoses are a first step to enhance depression care for patients. Provider training is a self-evident approach to enhance detection, diagnoses and treatment options and might even lead to improved patient outcomes.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted reviewing research studies providing training of general practitioners, published from 1999 until May 2011, available on the electronic databases Medline, Web of Science, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library as well as national guidelines and health technology assessments (HTA).
Results: 108 articles were fully assessed and 11 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included. Training of providers alone (even in a specific interventional method) did not result in improved patient outcomes. The additional implementation of guidelines and the use of more complex interventions in primary care yield a significant reduction in depressive symptomatology. The number of studies examining sole provider training is limited, and studies include different patient samples (new on-set cases vs. chronically depressed patients), which reduce comparability.
Conclusions: This is the first overview of randomized controlled trials introducing GP training for depression care. Provider training by itself does not seem to improve depression care; however, if combined with additional guidelines implementation, results are promising for new-onset depression patient samples. Additional organizational structure changes in form of collaborative care models are more likely to show effects on depression care.