The Use of Electronic Health Record Tools to Improve Evidence-Based Treatment of Adolescent Depression in Primary Care



      The aim of the current study was to evaluate primary care pediatrician (PCP) adoption of an electronic health record (EHR) documentation tool and their delivery of a behavioral activation (BA) intervention within their routine practice with adolescents who screened positive for depression.


      We used the RE-AIM framework to describe PCP adoption and implementation of EHR documentation tools and brief evidence-based protocols. Utilization was assessed using a customized toolbar (ie, actions toolbar) via retrospective chart review. A pre-post design was used to measure changes in PCP-reported knowledge, comfort, and feasibility managing depression before and after they were trained. A mixed-effects logistic regression model was used to analyze associations of resource utilization with depression severity.


      PCPs used the actions toolbar to document responses to elevated Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores for 29.80% of encounters. The PCPs utilized the BA protocol for 10.5% of encounters with elevated PHQ-9 scores. Higher depression severity categories were associated with significantly higher odds of utilization relative to mild severity. The training was rated highly acceptable and PCPs reported significant post-training increases in comfort and feasibility.


      This is the first study of its kind to implement and evaluate PCP utilization of an EHR documentation tool aimed to improve delivery of an evidence-based intervention for adolescent depression. Teaching PCPs to implement brief interventions has potential to increase access to evidence-based care; however, large-scale practice change requires an effective implementation strategy that does not increase provider burden and is fully integrated into physician documentation and workflow.


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