Implementation of a collaborative care model for the treatment of depression and anxiety in a community health center: results from a qualitative case study

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2014 Nov 4;7:503-13. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S69821. eCollection 2014.


Background: The collaborative care model is a systematic approach to the treatment of depression and anxiety in primary care settings that involves the integration of care managers and consultant psychiatrists, with primary care physician oversight, to more proactively manage mental disorders as chronic diseases, rather than treating acute symptoms. While collaborative care has been shown to be more effective than usual primary care in improving depression outcomes in a number of studies, less is known about the factors that support the translation of this evidence-based intervention to real-world program implementation. The purpose of this case study was to examine the implementation of a collaborative care model in a community based primary care clinic that primarily serves a low-income, uninsured Latino population, in order to better understand the interdisciplinary relationships and the specific elements that might facilitate broader implementation.

Methods: An embedded single-case study design was chosen in order to thoroughly examine the components of one of several programs within a single organization. The main unit of analysis was semi-structured interviews that were conducted with seven clinical and administrative staff members. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the interviews. Line-by-line initial coding resulted in over 150 initial codes, which were clustered together to rebuild the data into preliminary categories and then divided into four final categories, or main themes.

Results: FOUR UNIQUE THEMES ABOUT HOW THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A COLLABORATIVE CARE MODEL WORKED IN THIS SETTING EMERGED FROM THE INTERVIEWS: organizational change, communication, processes and outcomes of the program, and barriers to implementation. Each main theme had a number of subthemes that provided a detailed description of the implementation process and how it was unique in this setting.

Conclusion: The results indicated that adequate training and preparation, acceptance and support from key personnel, communication barriers, tools for systematic follow-up and measurement, and organizational stability can significantly impact successful implementation. Further research is necessary to understand how organizational challenges may affect outcomes for patients.

Keywords: collaborative care; implementation; measurement based care; mental health; primary care.