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This article is the author’s final published version in Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 300, December 2021, Pages 377 - 3841.

The published version is available at Copyright © Larson et al.


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is predominantly managed in primary care. However, primary care providers (PCPs) may not consistently follow evidence-based treatment algorithms, leading to variable patient management that can impact outcomes.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed adult patients with MDD seen at Geisinger, an integrated health system. Utilizing electronic health record (EHR) data, we classified patients as having MDD based on International Classification of Disease (ICD)-9/10 codes or a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9 score ≥5. Outcomes assessed included time to first visit with a PCP or behavioral health specialist following diagnosis, antidepressant medication switching, persistence, healthcare resource utilization (HRU), and treatment costs.

Results: Among the 38,321 patients with MDD managed in primary care in this study, significant delays between diagnosis with antidepressant prescribing and follow-up PCP visits were observed. There was also considerable variation in care following diagnosis. Overall, 34.9% of patients with an ICD-9/10 diagnosis of MDD and 41.3% with a PHQ-9 score ≥15 switched antidepressants. An ICD-9/10 diagnosis, but not moderately severe to severe depression, was associated with higher costs and HRU. More than 75% of patients with MDD discontinued antidepressant medication within 6 months.

Limitations: The study population was comparable with other real-world studies of MDD, but study limitations include its retrospective nature and reliance on the accuracy of EHRs.

Conclusions: Management of patients with MDD in a primary care setting is variable. Addressing these gaps will have important implications for ensuring optimal patient management, which may reduce HRU and treatment medication costs, and improve treatment persistence.

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