Spreading Ideas

Press Release

Good Provider Communication Improves Adherence for Antidepressants Prescribed to Adults With Diabetes

April 8, 2014



male doctor in white lab coat with stethoscope shakes the hand of a man wearing a hawaiian shirt

OAKLAND, Calif. — Adult patients with diabetes who trust their medical provider and feel included in treatment decisions are significantly more likely to take and maintain a newly prescribed antidepressant medication, according to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the University of Washington School of Medicine, included 1,500 patients with longstanding diabetes who were prescribed antidepressants.

“In patients with diabetes, depression has been linked to poor self-management and greater risk of diabetic complications including heart disease, dementia and early mortality,” said Andrew Karter, PhD, research scientist at Kaiser Permanente and senior author of the study.  “Therefore, care providers believe that adherence to prescribed antidepressants is an important aspect of diabetes care. It is striking how strongly providers’ relationships with their patients, particularly establishing trust and the use of shared decision-making, influenced whether patients became ongoing users of the medications prescribed for depression.”

Patients with diabetes who were prescribed an antidepressant medication but did not feel included in treatment decisions were more than twice as likely to never fill the prescription. Patients who felt less trust in their provider were also one-third more likely to never refill their prescription after it was first dispensed and to have poor medication adherence during the 12 months after the initial prescription.

For this study, participants rated the quality of communication with their primary care provider during the preceding 12 months. While 96 percent of the patients filled their new antidepressant prescription at least once, rates of never filling were over double (6.1 percent vs. 2.7 percent) among patients who felt less involved in decision-making compared to those who felt more involved. Shared decision-making also was associated with better adherence later in the course of antidepressant treatment, albeit to a lesser degree, suggesting that patients’ perceptions of involvement in clinical decisions may have particular significance for adherence in the initial stages of new antidepressant treatment.

“These findings build on previous work in the Diabetes Study of Northern California (known as “DISTANCE”) cohort, in which we observed lower adherence to antidepressant medications for patients with limited health literacy,” said lead author Amy Bauer, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine. “Because the quality of provider communication is potentially modifiable, this serves as a promising target for interventions to improve adherence and therefore help patients get an adequate course of antidepressant therapy. Engaging patients in their care by fostering trust and encouraging shared decision-making is an important part of the therapeutic process that physicians can promote.”

For over a decade, DISTANCE has evaluated the quality of diabetes care and identified reasons for observed health disparities. It draws upon a diverse sample of over 20,000 Kaiser Permanente Northern California adult members with diabetes aged 30 to 75 years.

Other authors include Melissa M. Parker, MS, Alyce S. Adams, PhD, and Howard H. Moffet, MPH, of the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California; Dean Schillinger, MD, of the Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco; Wayne Katon, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle; and Nancy Adler, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco.

This research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (R01-DK080726, R01-DK081796, P30-DK092924, and NCATS Grant KL2 TR000421).

About the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research
The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research conducts, publishes and disseminates epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and the society at large. It seeks to understand the determinants of illness and well-being and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Currently, the Division’s 550-plus staff are working on more than 350 ongoing research studies in behavioral health and aging, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic conditions, health care delivery and policy, infectious diseases, vaccine safety and effectiveness, and women’s and children’s health. For more information, visit www.dor.kaiser.org.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 9.1 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to kp.org/share.