Objective: To target medically ill older home care patients with symptoms of depression in order to reduce their rate of hospitalization.
Design: A case-control study.
Setting: A private, nonprofit home care organization, the Visiting Nurse Association of St. Louis.
Participants: Home care patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms of depression who were participants of a Total Quality Management (TQM) intervention (n = 81) were compared with an historical control of home care patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms of depression (n = 69).
Intervention: Utilization of TQM principles to develop a plan including: (a) an educational seminar on depression for home care staff involved in the project; (b) letters to physicians introducing the TQM project; (c) use of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) for screening; (d) recommendation to the primary physician of a home social service (SS) consultation for patients with a GDS of 10 to 14; (e) recommendation to the primary physician of three interventions for patients with a GDS > or = 15: home SS consultation + mental health (MH), or gerontological nurse (GN) consultation + antidepressant medication (a pharmacotherapeutic algorithm sent by facsimile to the primary physician upon request).
Outcome measures: Hospitalization rates of the control group compared with the TQM intervention group, the degree to which part (e) of the plan was implemented, and the effect this had on hospitalization rates.
Results: The TQM intervention patients had a higher mean age than the historical control patients but were not different in percent female, percent white race, percent with a caregiver in the home, functional status, and in 15 of 16 diagnostic categories. Overall, the TQM intervention group had a hospitalization rate of 23.5% (19/81) compared with a rate of 40.6% (28/69) for the historical control group (P = .024). For part (e) of the plan (56/81 patients had a GDS > or = 15), 29/56 (52%) received the recommended SS consultation, 50/56 (89%) received the recommended MH or GN consultation, and 32/56 (57%) received antidepressant medication. One type of intervention did not seem to lower hospitalization rates more than another although having received the MH or GN visits approached significance (12/50, 24%; P = .052) when compared with the control group.
Conclusions: Utilization of TQM principles and the development of an intervention such as the one described here can decrease hospitalization rates for medically ill older home care patients with symptoms of depression.