Improving Quality of Depression Care Using Organized Systems of Care: A Review of the Literature



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Objective: To establish the need for a chronic disease management strategy for major depressive disorder (MDD), discuss the challenges involved in implementing guideline-level treatment for MDD, and provide examples of successful implementation of collaborative care programs.

Data Sources: A systematic literature search of MEDLINE and the US National Library of Medicine was performed.

Study Selection: We reviewed clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of collaborative care interventions for the treatment of depression in the primary care setting using the keywords collaborative care, depression, and MDD. This review includes 45 articles relevant to MDD and collaborative care published through May 2010 and excludes all non–English-language articles.

Results: Collaborative care interventions include a greater role for nonmedical specialists and a supervising psychiatrist with the major goal of improving quality of depression care in primary care systems. Collaborative care programs restructure clinical practice to include a patient care strategy with specific goals and an implementation plan, support for self-management training, sustained patient follow-up, and decision support for medication changes. Key components associated with the most effective collaborative care programs were improvement in antidepressant adherence, use of depression case managers, and regular case load supervision by a psychiatrist. Across studies, primary care patients randomized to collaborative care interventions experienced enhanced treatment outcomes compared with those randomized to usual care, with overall outcome differences approaching 30%.

Conclusions: Collaborative care interventions may help to achieve successful, guideline-level treatment outcomes for primary care patients with MDD. Potential benefits of collaborative care strategies include reduced financial burden of illness, increased treatment adherence, and long-term improvement in depression symptoms and functional outcomes.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2011;13(1):e1–e8

Submitted: May 20, 2010; accepted July 19, 2010.

Published online: February 10, 2011 (doi:10.4088/PCC.10r01019blu).

Corresponding author: Wayne Katon, MD, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Box 356560, University of Washington Medical School, 1959 NE Pacific, Seattle, WA 98195 (

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2011;13(1):e1-e8