BACKGROUND: Depression is one of the most widespread mental disorders in Germany and causes a great suffering and involves high costs. Guidelines recommend stepped and interdisciplinary collaborative care models for the treatment of depression.
OBJECTIVES: Stepped and collaborative care models are described regarding their efficacy and cost-effectiveness. A current model project within the Hamburg Network for Mental Health exemplifies how guideline-based stepped diagnostics and treatment incorporating innovative low-intensity interventions are implemented by a large network of health care professionals and clinics.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: An accompanying evaluation using a cluster randomized controlled design assesses depressive symptom reduction and cost-effectiveness for patients treated within "Health Network Depression" ("Gesundheitsnetz Depression", a subproject of psychenet.de) compared with patients treated in routine care.
RESULTS: Over 90 partners from inpatient and outpatient treatment have been successfully involved in recruiting over 600 patients within the stepped care model. Communication in the network was greatly facilitated by the use of an innovative online tool for the supply and reservation of treatment capacities. The participating professionals profit from the improved infrastructure and the implementation of advanced training and quality circle work.
CONCLUSIONS: New treatment models can greatly improve the treatment of depression owing to their explicit reference to guidelines, the establishment of algorithms for diagnostics and treatment, the integration of practices and clinics, in addition to the implementation of low-intensity treatment alternatives. These models could promote the development of a disease management program for depression.