Why Tracking Patient Health is Vital for Improving Depression Treatment Outcomes
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Depression is a complex and debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite significant advancements in understanding and treating physical illnesses, effective medical management of patients with mental health conditions, especially depression, remains a challenge. In this article, we explore the importance of tracking patient health to improve treatment outcomes for depression and discuss various tools and techniques that can aid healthcare providers in making more informed decisions when prescribing medications.
Mental health disorders, particularly depression, affect a large portion of the population. According to a nationwide survey, an estimated 4.0% (9.8 million) of all US adults (aged 18 years or older) experienced a serious mental illness, and an astounding 17.9% (43.4 million) of all US adults experienced any mental illness at some points in their lives. The same study reported that 16.1 million adults (an estimated 6.7% of the total adult population) had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year.
The broad impact of depression on individuals, their families, and society in general includes reduced educational attainment, increased risk of teen childbearing, marital disruption, unstable employment, and early mortality. A 2015 study estimated that nearly half of the total $210.5 billion economic burden of major depressive disorder (MDD) is attributable to workplace issues such as absenteeism and presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work).
Despite increased funding for behavioral health care, the current standard psychiatric treatment options often generate little or no incremental impact on population health. This is due to multiple interrelated challenges, such as a shortage of psychiatrists, the ineffectiveness of commonly used drugs and prescribing patterns, and a lack of objective markers for treatment of mental health conditions.
The Importance of Tracking Patient Health
In order to improve depression treatment outcomes, it is crucial to track patient health and monitor the effectiveness of prescribed medications. This can help healthcare providers identify which treatments are working best for each individual patient and adjust their approach accordingly. Tracking patient health can also help detect patterns and trends that might otherwise go unnoticed, allowing for earlier intervention and more targeted treatment strategies.
Identifying Objective Markers for Treatment
One of the major challenges in treating mental health conditions is the lack of objective, evidence-based predictive markers to inform pharmacologic treatment. Current psychiatric practice patterns, often described as “trial and error pharmacotherapy,” result in millions of patients being labeled “resistant to treatment” after failing to respond to two or more drugs, often from the same therapeutic class.
To address this issue, researchers are exploring the use of objective tests and measures, such as electroencephalogram (EEG) findings coupled with medication outcomes data, to predict patient response to specific drugs and minimize uncertainty when treating patients with mental illness.
Leveraging Technology to Enhance Patient Health Tracking
Technological advancements, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and mobile health (mHealth) applications, have made it easier for healthcare providers to track patient health and monitor treatment outcomes more effectively. EHRs enable the collection, analysis, and sharing of patient data, allowing healthcare providers to make better-informed decisions about treatment plans.
mHealth applications can also play a vital role in tracking patient health by providing patients with tools to monitor their symptoms, medication adherence, and lifestyle factors that may impact their mental health. These applications can also facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, allowing for more personalized care and improved treatment outcomes.
Tools and Techniques for Tracking Patient Health
Several tools and techniques are available to help healthcare providers track patient health and improve depression treatment outcomes. Some of these include:
Psychiatric EEG Evaluation Registry (PEER)
PEER is a clinical phenotypic database comprising more than 11,000 baseline EEGs and over 39,000 outcomes of medication treatment for various mental health diagnoses. Collective findings from 45 studies provide compelling evidence for PEER as a relatively simple, inexpensive predictor of likely patient response to specific antidepressants and likely treatment-related side effects.
By comparing a patient’s EEG to the PEER database, healthcare providers can generate a report that presents the relative likelihood of the individual patient’s response to each medication class and specific drugs within each class. This information can help healthcare providers make more informed decisions when prescribing medications for depression.
Integrated Care Management
Primary care providers have increasingly integrated care management processes for chronic physical conditions, such as diabetes, into their practices. By applying similar care management processes for depression, primary care providers can improve the efficacy and efficiency of treatment in the primary care setting.
Collaborative Care Models (CCM)
CCMs provide the structure for delivering integrated mental health and general medical care in primary care settings. Team-based, multicomponent interventions, CCMs improve coordination of patient care through evidence-based provider decision making, clinical information systems, and patient engagement. Used as a tool in the CCM setting, strategies like PEER hold potential to improve the efficacy and efficiency of treatment for depression.
Telepsychiatry involves the delivery of psychiatric assessment and care through telecommunications technology, such as videoconferencing. In areas with shortages of psychiatrists, tools like PEER could be useful in assisting primary care physicians in combination with telepsychiatry.
The Benefits of Tracking Patient Health
Tracking patient health and leveraging tools like PEER can provide numerous benefits, including:
- Improved Treatment Outcomes: By providing healthcare providers with more accurate and personalized information, patient health tracking can lead to more effective treatment plans and improved outcomes for patients with depression.
- Reduced Trial and Error: Objective markers and tools like PEER can help reduce the trial and error associated with current psychiatric practice patterns, leading to more targeted and effective treatments.
- Increased Patient Adherence: Studies show that treatment following PEER recommendations results in 2.5 times greater adherence to therapy, as patients are more likely to continue treatment when they see positive results.
- Reduced Costs: Improved treatment outcomes and reduced trial and error can significantly decrease the excess costs associated with ineffective treatment, leading to overall cost savings for patients and healthcare systems.
Tracking patient health is vital for improving depression treatment outcomes. By leveraging objective markers, tools like PEER, and innovative care models, healthcare providers can make more informed decisions about treatment plans and provide more personalized care to patients with depression. This can ultimately lead to improved patient health, provider satisfaction, family and community well-being, and economic outcomes.
Why is tracking patient health important in depression treatment?
Tracking patient health is crucial in depression treatment because it allows healthcare providers to monitor progress, identify any potential issues or setbacks, and make adjustments to treatment as needed. By tracking factors such as sleep patterns, mood changes, and medication adherence, healthcare providers can provide more personalized and effective care.
What are some tools or methods used to track patient health in depression treatment?
There are several tools and methods that can be used to track patient health in depression treatment, such as mood trackers, sleep journals, medication reminders, and regular check-ins with healthcare providers. Technology also plays a role, with mobile apps and wearable devices now available to help patients track various health indicators.
Can tracking patient health really make a difference in depression treatment outcomes?
Yes, tracking patient health has been shown to make a significant difference in depression treatment outcomes. Studies have found that patients who regularly track their mood and other health factors have better treatment adherence, show greater improvements in symptoms, and are less likely to experience relapse.
How can patients be encouraged to track their health during depression treatment?
Patients can be encouraged to track their health during depression treatment by emphasizing the importance of doing so, providing them with the necessary tools and resources, and making it part of the overall treatment plan. Healthcare providers can also incorporate patient feedback and insights from tracking data to help tailor treatment and improve outcomes.
Are there any potential downsides to tracking patient health in depression treatment?
While tracking patient health can be a valuable tool in depression treatment, it is important to ensure that patients are not overwhelmed or stressed by the process. Patients should not feel pressured to track every aspect of their health, and healthcare providers should work with them to identify the most important factors to monitor. Additionally, patients’ privacy and confidentiality must be respected at all times.