Objective: To compare the effectiveness of a multifaceted intervention in patients with depression in primary care with the effectiveness of "usual care" by the primary care physician.
Design: A randomized controlled trial among primary care patients with major depression or minor depression.
Patients: Over a 12-month period a total of 217 primary care patients who were recognized as depressed by their primary care physicians and were willing to take antidepressant medication were randomized, with 91 patients meeting criteria for major depression and 126 for minor depression.
Interventions: Intervention patients received increased intensity and frequency of visits over the first 4 to 6 weeks of treatment (visits 1 and 3 with a primary care physician, visits 2 and 4 with a psychiatrist) and continued surveillance of adherence to medication regimens during the continuation and maintenance phases of treatment. Patient education in these visits was supplemented by videotaped and written materials.
Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measures included short-term (30-day) and long-term (90-day) use of antidepressant medication at guideline dosage levels, satisfaction with overall care for depression and antidepressant medication, and reduction in depressive symptoms.
Results: In patients with major depression, the intervention group had greater adherence than the usual care controls to adequate dosage of antidepressant medication for 90 days or more (75.5% vs 50.0%; P < .01), were more likely to rate the quality of the care they received for depression as good to excellent (93.0% vs 75.0%; P < .03), and were more likely to rate antidepressant medications as helping somewhat to helping a great deal (88.1% vs 63.3%; P < .01). Seventy-four percent of intervention patients with major depression showed 50% or more improvement on the Symptom Checklist-90 Depressive Symptom Scale compared with 43.8% of controls (P < .01), and the intervention patients also demonstrated a significantly greater decrease in depression severity over time compared with controls (P < .004). In patients with minor depression, the intervention group had significantly greater adherence than controls to adequate dosage of antidepressant medication for 90 days or more (79.7% vs 40.3%; P < .001) and more often rated antidepressant medication as helping somewhat to helping a great deal (81.8% vs 61.4%; P < .02). However, no significant differences were found between the intervention and control groups in the percentage of patients who were satisfied with the care they received for depression (94.4% vs 89.3%), in the percentage who experienced a 50% or more decrease in depressive symptoms, or in the decrease of depressive symptoms over time.
Conclusion: A multifaceted intervention consisting of collaborative management by the primary care physician and a consulting psychiatrist, intensive patient education, and surveillance of continued refills of antidepressant medication improved adherence to antidepressant regimens in patients with major and with minor depression. It improved satisfaction with care and resulted in more favorable depressive outcomes in patients with major, but not minor, depression.