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Leung LB, Chu K, Rose D, Stockdale S, Post EP, Wells KB, Rubenstein LV. Electronic Population-Based Depression Detection and Management Through Universal Screening in the Veterans Health Administration. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Mar 1; 5(3):e221875.
Importance: In 2016, the US Preventive Services Task Force newly recommended universal screening for depression, with the expectation that screening would be associated with appropriate treatment. Few studies have been able to assess the population-based trajectory from screening to receipt of follow-up and treatment for individuals with depression. Objective: To examine adherence to guidelines for follow-up and treatment among primary care patients who newly screened positive for depression in the Veterans Health Administration (VA). Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study used VA electronic data to identify patients who newly screened positive for depression on the 2-item Patient Health Questionnaire at 82 primary care VA clinics in California, Arizona, and New Mexico between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2019. Data analysis was performed from December 2020 to August 2021. Main Outcomes and Measures: Receipt of guideline-concordant care for screen-positive patients who were determined by clinicians as having depression was assessed. Timely follow-up (within 84 days of screening) was defined as receiving 3 or more mental health specialty visits, 3 or more psychotherapy visits, or 3 or more primary care visits with a depression diagnosis according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision. Completing at least minimal treatment (within 12 months) was defined as having 60 days or more of antidepressant prescriptions filled, 4 or more mental health specialty visits, or 3 or more psychotherapy visits. Results: The final cohort included 607?730 veterans (mean [SD] age, 59.4 [18.2] years; 546?516 men [89.9%]; 339?811 non-Hispanic White [55.9%]); 8%, or 82?998 of 997?185 person-years, newly screened positive for depression. Clinicians identified fewer than half with depression (15?155 patients), of whom 32% (5034 of 15?650 person-years) met treatment guidelines for timely follow-up and 77% (12?026 of 15?650 person-years) completed at least minimal treatment. Younger age (odds ratio,?0.990; 95% CI,?0.986-0.993; P? < .001), Black race (odds ratio,?1.19; 95% CI, CI?1.05-1.34; P? = .01), and having comorbid psychiatric diagnoses were significantly associated with timely follow-up. Individual quality metric components (eg, medication or psychotherapy) were associated differently with overall quality results among patient groups, except for age. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, most patients met the guidelines for completing at least minimal treatment, but only a minority received timely follow-up after screening positive and being identified as having depression. More research is needed to understand whether the discrepancy between patients who screened positive and patients identified as having depression reflects a gap in recognition of needed care.