KAISER PERMANENTE: Joins AHCPR In Mental Health Project
The federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research yesterday announced a joint research project with Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program of Northern California that could help all managed care organizations target and provide appropriate health services for enrollees and family members suffering from depression or other mental illnesses. Led by Kaiser's Enid Hunkeler and AHCPR's William Spector, the study will concentrate on mild depression -- one of the most prevalent mental health problems among managed care patients -- and its interaction with chronic diseases, such as heart disease. Efforts will also focus on alcohol, drug and cigarette use, nonpsychiatric health services utilization and costs. Further, researchers will explore whether family members of enrollees who have mental health symptoms differ in their use of non-mental health services from family members of enrollees who do not have these symptoms. Findings are expected to contribute to a more complete understanding of the actual health care costs of depression and other mental health symptoms.
According to current statistics, approximately 10% of the population suffers from some form of depression, with four percent meeting the criteria for major depression. "The ultimate goal of Kaiser Permanente is to alleviate the suffering of" these patients as well as those with other mental health symptoms, said Dr. Philip Madvig, the Permanente Medical Group's associate executive director for quality. "If we can determine the kinds of patients to target, clinicians may be more effective at preventing and treating mental health problems," he continued. Research will be based on Kaiser data from a recent, large-scale telephone survey of a random sample of enrollees regarding their mental health symptoms, chronic disease and alcohol, cigarette and drug use patterns. Research will also rely on data examining enrollees' use and expenditures for Kaiser hospitals, emergency rooms, outpatient facilities and other medical services in Northern California. Findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals and summarized in AHCPR's 1999 Research Activities (Kaiser Permanente release, 2/10).