A approach to treating depression in adults over the age of 60 can cut total healthcare costs, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Researchers found that older adults over the with depression who received a year of team care had an average reduction of $US3300 less in total healthcare spending over a four-year period, compared to patients receiving conventional treatment.

For several years, researchers from the University of Washington have been focusing on a team care approach called IMPACT (Improving Mood – Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment for Late Life Depression).

The model is based around a single depression-care manager – usually a nurse, social worker or psychologist – who works in collaboration with a consulting physician or psychiatrist.

Previous studies have shown that the IMPACT program provides improved health outcomes, including decreased depression and chronic physical pain as well as improved physical functioning and better overall quality of life.

“Study participants assigned to the IMPACT program saw significantly lower total health care costs over four years than patients receiving standard care, and our research shows that this difference was almost certainly due to the IMPACT team-care model,” said Dr Jurgen Unutzer, Director of the IMPACT Implementation Center at the University of Washington.

“This research, combined with our other work showing how team care for depression has significant health benefits for older adults, illustrates how important it is for health organisations to consider implementing evidence-based collaborative models of depression care, such as IMPACT.”

The researchers concluded that the cost of using the IMPACT model of depression care treatment is only about $US500 per year for each patient.

When spread out over an entire population of older adults, the cost of offering IMPACT as a health care benefit amounts to about $US1 per person per month.

A number of US health organisations, including Kaiser Permanente of Southern California and Virginia Mason Medical Center of Seattle, have begun or about to begin implementing the IMPACT program.

Click here for more information on IMPACT 

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