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Study Reports PCPs Are not Always Well-Equipped to Treat Depression

Update Date: Nov 06, 2013 03:01 PM EST

The relationship people build with their primary care physicians (PCPs) is very important. The more a PCP knows about his or her patient, the better the PCP can diagnose and treat different conditions. Even though people rely heavily on their PCPs, a new study found that not all doctors treat depression effectively.

For this study, the researchers from the University of California, Davis examined the current methods that are given to patients in order to help them talk to their PCPS, who would assess and treat their depression. These techniques include a depression engagement video (DEV), which teaches patients how to look for signs of depression and how to talk to their doctors about their symptoms. Patients might also watch an interactive multimedia computer program (IMCP), which has similar content to the DEV but takes a more interactive approach. The IMCP offers feedback to the patients about their symptoms and level of depression.

The research team looked at 925 adult patients being treated by 135 PCPs. 603 of them had already been diagnosed with depression where as 322 did not show any depressive symptoms. The entire group of people was randomly assigned to the DEV group, the IMCP group or a control group. The participants were assessed 12 weeks later to see if the videos were effective methods in treating depression.

Researchers found that patients who were in the DEV or the IMCP groups were more likely to get referrals to mental-health programs. The researchers calculated that PCPs were 17.5 percent and 26 percent more likely to refer their patients watching DEV or IMCP respectively when compared to people in the controlled group. Patients in both video groups were also more likely to ask for information. Despite getting more referrals and asking more questions, the research team found during the follow-up that both intervention groups and the control group scored similarly on the mental-health evaluation. The researchers believe that some PCPs might not have the right tools to successfully treat depression.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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