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Med Care. 2001 Aug;39(8):772-84.

Quality improvement research on late life depression in primary care.

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  • 1Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute for Health Care, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.



Two million older Americans suffer from depression annually. Depression causes more functional impairment than many other common medical conditions and older adults have the highest rate of suicide in the United States. Although many of these patients fail to seek or fail to receive care for depression, the majority will be seen in primary care for the treatment of other conditions.


To review the health services research on quality improvement for late life depression.


Qualitative literature review.


During the past 30 years, multiple educational and quality improvement interventions have been designed and tested to improve the recognition and treatment of depression in primary care settings. The findings from this large body of health services research suggest that: (1) the outcome of major depression in the usual care of primary care is typically poor; this is particularly true of late life depression; (2) informational support provided to primary care physicians is necessary but insufficient to improve the outcomes of late life depression in primary care; achieving guideline-level therapy requires the substantial participation of an informed and motivated patient working in concert with a health care team and health care system designed to care for chronic conditions; (3) up to 30% of older primary care patients will fail to respond to excellent guideline-level therapy provided in primary care; and (4) the latest quality improvement efforts focus not only on the clinical skills of primary care physicians, but also on patient's self-care and on innovative strategies to improve the system of care.


Late life depression is often a chronic disease and outcomes research demonstrates that quality improvement efforts that focus resources on improving systems of care and the active participation of patients offer the best evidence of improved patient outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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