Quality Insights: Clinical Quality in Primary Care

Long-term Medication

Healthcare quality measure: This measure looks at patients age 18 or older who were newly diagnosed with depression and were prescribed medication. It shows the percent of those patients who filled the prescription and received at least a 6-month supply of their medication.

Reasons for this measure: More than 36 million adults in the United States are diagnosed with depression (major depressive disorder) at some time in their lives. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. People with depression often have trouble doing daily activities. Depression results in more days of missed school or work than chronic (long term) illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and diabetes.

Medications can help, and it is important that patients with depression stay on medication for at least six months to be sure their symptoms have greatly lessened or disappeared. Taking medication for less than six months is not long enough to fully recover from depression.

Ways your doctor can help...

  • Teach you about depression. This includes warning signs, symptoms, and what to do when you feel depressed.
  • Talk with you about treatment options, including medication and talk therapy (meeting with a therapist).
  • Prescribe long-term medication (drugs you need to take for months or years) for your depression.
  • Meet with you from time to time to check if the medication is working the way it should. If there are any problems, your doctor may change the amount of medicine or prescribe a different medication.
  • As needed, refer you to a psychiatrist (doctor who specializes in mental health).

Ways you can help...

  • Talk with your doctor about treatment options. These can include talk therapy, medication, or both.
  • Take your medication the way your doctor prescribes. Learn how much to take, how often to take it, and when it will start working.
  • Let your doctor know if you have any medication problems or side effects. If so, your doctor may change the amount you take or prescribe you a different medication.
  • Exercise and be active each day. For instance, you might want to take a walk, clean your house, work in your garden, or go to the gym.
  • Get the treatment you need. It can be hard to ask for help and keep appointments when you feel depressed. Make a plan and, if needed, ask others to help you get the treatment you need.

Ways to learn more...


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