The use of electronic health record tools to improve evidence-based treatment of adolescent depression in primary care

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Academic Pediatrics


OBJECTIVE: 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. METHODS: 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSION: 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.


A. Maragakis is a faculty member in EMU's Department of Psychology.

*L. LaLonde is an EMU student.

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