HealthDay News — Primary care doctors can detect and treat most cases of depression, according to a study published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Manish K. Jha, MD, from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues retrospectively assessed the first 25,000 patients (aged ≥12 years) screened with the 2-item Patient Health Questionnaire as part of the ongoing, VitalSign6 quality improvement project. Primary care physicians were given web-based software that guided them through protocols for screening patients for depression, prescribing treatments, and measuring their progress.

The researchers found that 4325 patients (17.3%) screened positive for depression. Of these patients, 56.1% had clinician-diagnosed depressive disorder. Of the 2160 depressed patients enrolled for ≥18 weeks, two-thirds (64.8%) were started on measurement-based pharmacotherapy and 6.4% were referred externally. For the 1400 patients started on pharmacotherapy, 1, 2, and 3 or more follow-up visits occurred among 30.2, 12.6, and 11.6% of patients, respectively, while 45.5% had zero follow-up visits. For those with 1, 2, and 3 or more follow-up visits, remission rates were 20.3% (86 of 423), 31.6% (56 of 177), and 41.7% (68 of 163), respectively. Higher attrition was more common among patients who were nonwhite, had a positive drug-abuse screen, had lower depression/anxiety symptom severity, and were of younger age.

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“This study shows that primary care physicians can do this, and do it well, with the right tools,” a coauthor said in a statement.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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