Local Medical Practice Group Tries New Approach to Depression

Local Medical Practice Group Tries New Approach to Depression

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A group of local primary care physicians is hoping to improve the outcomes of adult patients who are diagnosed with depression.

Lifetime Health Medical Group, which has between 30,000 and 35,000 patients in the Rochester area, is using a new collaborative treatment program that includes a behavioral health care coordinator and a consulting psychiatrist.

The program, originally developed at the University of Washington, utilizes a problem solving approach, which medical director Robert Cole says, is different from traditional cognitive therapy. 

"So, for example, if an individual says to a behavioral care coordinator that he or she would like to exercise more - and we know that exercise could benefit this individual's depression symptoms - then our behavioral health care coordinator spends some time creating, essentially an outline of things that person can do to increase his or her exercise."

The Lifetime group will be following the outcomes of patients enrolled in the program for the next year. 

Cole said they're hoping to match results in other clinical settings around the country, which showed twice the rate of success in getting depressed patients into remission as compared to traditional depression care.

He said this will be a new and hopefully more positive experience for doctors, too. "With a traditional referral to a mental health provider from a primary care practice, the patient - to some extent - disappears into a black box, where the primary care provider may not be wholly aware of the things that are being done with and on behalf of the patient."

According to Cole, roughly 10% of patients who seek primary care will be diagnosed with depression.

He believes a lack of access to mental health care puts a strain on many of primary care practices which can lead to less effective care for patients.

"I think, given the time constraints that primary care practices work within, there can be a rush to judgment, diagnosis and medication when, in fact, sometimes counseling or other approaches may be more beneficial and more appropriate for a patient."

Beth Adams/WXXI News

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