Health Watch - Improving Depression Treatment

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Standardized guidelines for depression treatment lead to better outcomes, according to a recent study.

Treating mental illness is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but it can be even more difficult for public clinics, where patients often move around from clinic to clinic and receive inconsistent care. To improve the situation, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas teamed up with the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation to develop a set of guidelines for treating mental disorders, including major depression.

The guidelines help doctors make treatment and medication decisions based on the patients' history, clinical status, symptoms and results up to that point. Because the guidelines are standardized across public clinics, patients receive the same care, no matter which clinic they go to.

A recent study found that patients treated using these guidelines for major depressive disorder showed significant improvement compared to patients who received the treatments normally given by the clinics' doctors. Both sets of patients had access to the same medications and other treatments.

The group treated according to the guidelines improved twice as much as the other group. When patients reported how they felt, the group treated according to guidelines was three times better.

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July 2004

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