Depression decision support in primary care: A cluster randomized trial

Steven K. Dobscha, Kathryn Corson, David H. Hickam, Nancy A. Perrin, Dale F. Kraemer, Martha S. Gerrity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Background: Intensive collaborative interventions improve depression outcomes, but the benefit of less intensive interventions is not clear. Objective: To determine whether decision support improves outcomes for patients with depression. Design: Clinician-level, cluster randomized, controlled trial. Setting: 5 primary care clinics of 1 Veterans Affairs medical center. Participants: 41 primary care clinicians, and 375 patients with depression (Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ-9] depression scores of 10 to 25 or Hopkins Symptom Checklist-20 [SCL-20] scores ≥ 1.0). Measurements: The primary outcome was change in depression score (SCL-20) at 6 and 12 months. Secondary outcomes were health-related quality-of-life (36-item Short Form for Veterans [SF-36V] score), patient satisfaction, antidepressant use, and health care utilization. Intervention: Clinicians received depression education and were randomly assigned to depression decision support or usual care. The depression decision support team, which consisted of a psychiatrist and nurse, provided 1 early patient educational contact and depression monitoring with feedback to clinicians over 12 months. Results: Although SCL-20 depression scores improved in both groups, the intervention had no effect compared with usual care. The difference in slopes comparing intervention and control over 12 months was 0.20 (95% CI, -0.37 to 0.78; P = 0.49), which was neither clinically nor statistically significant. Changes in SF-36V scores also did not differ between groups. At 12 months, intervention patients reported greater satisfaction (P = 0.002) and were more likely to have had at least 1 mental health specialty appointment (41.1% vs. 27.2%; P = 0.025), to have received any antidepressant (79.3% vs. 69.3%; P = 0.041), and to have received antidepressants for 90 days or more (76.2% vs. 61.6%; P = 0.008). Limitations: Usual care clinicians received depression education and had on-site mental health support, which may have mitigated intervention effectiveness. Conclusions: Decision support improved processes of care but not depression outcomes. More intensive care management or specialty treatment may be needed to improve depression outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-487
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 3 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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