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J Rural Health. 1995 Spring;11(2):114-21.

The process and outcomes of care for major depression in rural family practice settings.

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  • 1University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock 72205, USA.


Although primary care physicians provide the majority of care for rural residents with major depression, little is known about the quality of the care they provide. The aim of this study was to characterize the process and outcomes of care for rural patients with major depression, and to examine the relationship between the process and outcomes of care in this population. Six hundred and thirty-one patients in 21 primary care practices in small towns were screened; 47 patients (7.4% of patients screened) meeting DSM-III-R criteria for current major depression were recruited into the study, and 38 (81.0% of patients recruited) were followed an average of five months later using the Depression Outcomes Module (Rost, Smith, Burnam, & Burns, 1992). While 24 (63.1%) of the 38 depressed subjects received a prescription for one or more antidepressants between the index visit and follow-up, only 11 (28.9%) received pharmacologic treatment in concordance with the new Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) guidelines; 26 (68.4%) of 38 depressed patients continued to meet criteria for major depression at five months. Those who received pharmacologic treatment concordant with AHCPR guidelines showed more improvement at follow-up. The findings suggest that outcomes for major depression may be worse in rural family practice settings than in urban settings. The study also demonstrates that AHCPR guidelines define effective treatment for major depression in the study sample. The Depression Outcomes Module appears to be a reliable and valid instrument for monitoring the outcomes of care for major depression in family practice settings.

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