Background: The availability of clinical guidelines in isolation has generally failed to promote voluntary change in practice patterns. Accordingly, a randomized controlled trial was conducted to determine the effectiveness of academic detailing (AD) techniques and continuous quality improvement (CQI) teams in increasing compliance with national guidelines for the primary care of hypertension and depression.
Methods: Fifteen small group practices at four Seattle primary care clinics were assigned to one of three study arms--AD alone, AD plus CQI teams, or usual care. The activity of 95 providers and 4,995 patients was monitored from August 1, 1993, through January 31, 1996. Twelve-month baseline and study periods were separated by a six-month "wash-in" period during which training sessions were held. Changes in hypertension prescribing, blood pressure control, depression recognition, use of older tricyclics, and scores on the Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression scale were examined.
Results: Clinics varied considerably in their implementation of both the AD and the CQI team interventions. Across all sites, AD was associated with change in a single process measure, a decline in the percentage of depressives prescribed first-generation tricyclics (-4.7 percentage points versus control, p = 0.04). No intervention effects were demonstrated for CQI teams across all sites for either disease condition. Within the clinic independently judged most successful at implementing both change strategies, the use of CQI teams and AD in combination did increase the percentage of hypertensives adequately controlled (17.3 percentage points versus control, p = 0.03).
Summary and conclusions: The AD techniques and the CQI teams evaluated were generally ineffective in improving guideline compliance and clinical outcomes regarding the primary care of hypertension and depression.