Electronic Clinical Decision Support for Management of Depression in Primary Care: A Prospective Cohort Study

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Objective: To assess the utility of an electronic clinical decision support tool for management of depression in primary care.

Method: This prospective study was conducted in a national network of ambulatory practices over a 1-year period (October 2007–October 2008). A clinical decision support tool was embedded into the electronic health record of 19 primary care practices with 119 providers. The main components included (1) the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), with 9 questions paralleling the 9 DSM-IV criteria for the diagnosis of major depressive disorder; (2) a suicide assessment form; and (3) brief patient and provider education. Use of each component was tracked in the electronic health record. Providers completed baseline and postintervention surveys regarding their depression management practices and their perceptions of the clinical decision support tool.

Results: According to electronic health record tracking, the PHQ-9 form was used in 45.6% of the 16,052 adult patients with depression and in 73.7% of the 1,422 patients with new depression. The suicide assessment form was used in 62.0% of patients with possible suicidality. Education modules were rarely used. From before to after the study, providers reported increased use of standardized tools for depression diagnosis (47% to 80%, P < .001) and monitoring (27% to 85%, P < .001). The majority of providers reported often using the PHQ-9 and suicide forms and felt them to be very helpful in patient care, with 85% planning to continue their use after the study.

Conclusions: The electronic health record–based clinical decision support tool was extensively used and perceived as very helpful for assessment of patients’ symptoms but not for provider education. These findings can help guide national efforts incorporating clinical decision support for quality improvement.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(1):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01191

Submitted: March 31, 2011; accepted July 22, 2011.

Published online: February 2, 2012.

Corresponding author: James M. Gill, MD, MPH, Delaware Valley Outcomes Research, 17 Henderson Hill Rd, Newark, DE 19713 (gillj@dvoresearch.com).

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(1):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01191