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Ger Med Sci. 2004 Feb 26;2:Doc01.

Insufficient depression treatment in outpatient settings.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Aachen, Germany.



The present status of outpatient treatment of depression in Germany was evaluated with respect to the adherence of general practitioners (GPs) and specialists of psychiatry to clinical practice guidelines.


In total, 488 depressed patients' psychopathology, diagnostic assessment, therapeutic measures and referral frequency were documented at inclusion into study by 43 general practitioners and 23 specialists of psychiatry in three regions of Germany. The investigation of change in depressive symptoms after six to eight weeks by means of self-assessment could be evaluated for 165 patients.


The results of diagnostic assessment demonstrated that diagnoses of depression were not always based on the diagnostic criteria for depression (ICD-10): 33% of GPs' and 17% of specialists' patients were included as depressed patients into the study despite not fulfilling the ICD-10 criteria in the standardized documentation. Therapeutic undertreatment was more often found in the group of GPs. Referrals were found not to be oriented towards guidelines. After six to eight weeks, one half of patients reported a reduction in depressed symptoms, the other half of patients reported a stagnation or even a progression.


The study has shown that physicians in outpatient settings still fail to orient themselves towards guideline recommendations. This reflects the need for physicians to receive guideline training, with the aim of improving the quality of care for depression. A quality management intervention program consisting of guideline training and an interdisciplinary quality circle to improve depression treatment and networking was supported by the authors and is currently being evaluated.

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