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Am J Med. 2008 Nov;121(11 Suppl 2):S38-44. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2008.09.012.

Optimizing outcomes for patients with depression and chronic medical illnesses.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.


Depression and comorbid chronic medical conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and osteoarthritis are frequently seen in the primary care setting, and the interaction of these illnesses can complicate diagnostic and treatment efforts. Although the etiologies of these bidirectional associations are not well understood, a number of negative outcomes are apparent, and challenges exist at patient, provider, and healthcare system levels to better recognize and treat depression in patients with chronic medical comorbidity. Such patients are more likely to present with somatic complaints, engage in unhealthy behaviors, harbor unhealthy thoughts or cognitions, and are less likely to comply with therapeutic recommendations. Primary care encounters often represent the only opportunities for these patients to address these issues and obtain the professional attention their depression requires. For clinicians, forging empathetic partnerships with patients, prescribing appropriate treatments, and closely monitoring symptoms and therapeutic progress are invaluable for optimal management of both affective and medical disorders. Further opportunities to improve care also exist at the healthcare system level, such as developing, funding, and implementing multimodal collaborative care models in the primary care setting.

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