Effectiveness of clinical decision support systems and telemedicine on outcomes of depression: a cluster randomized trial in general practice

Matteo Balestrieri, Davide Sisti, Marco Rocchi, Paola Rucci, Gregory Simon, Ricardo Araya, Giovanni de Girolamo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Computerized Clinical Decision Support Systems (CCDSS) are information technology tools, designed to improve clinical decision-making. Telemedicine is a health care service delivery using videoconferencing, telephone or messaging technologies. OBJECTIVES: Our project aimed at testing the effectiveness of a composite CCDSS and telemedicine approach designed to treat depression in primary care. METHODS: This cluster randomized trial involved four GP clinics located in Northern Italy. Two clinics were assigned to the experimental protocol, and two served as controls. The study compared the telemedicine group (TG), in which GPs had access to a CCDSS platform, with the control group (CG) in which GPs provided treatment as usual (TAU). Patients scoring ≥11 on Patient Heath Questionnaire and ≥26 on the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self-Report were eligible for participation. Patients were also administered the World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF to assess quality of life and Medical Interview Satisfaction Scale 21 to assess satisfaction with the medical interview. RESULTS: Overall, 2810 patients were screened and 66 in the experimental group and 32 in the CG passed the screening stages and met inclusion criteria. The percentage of remitters at 6 months was significantly higher in the TG than in the CG group (24.1% versus 3.1%, χ 2 = 6.6, P = 0.01). This difference remained significant after adjusting for baseline confounders. Physical and psychological quality of life improved significantly from baseline in both groups. Patients reported, on average, good satisfaction with the medical interview. CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed that a combined CCDSS and telemedicine approach may be more effective than the TAU offered by GPs to patients with depression. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial was registered on https://clinicaltrials.gov/ on 5 October 2012 with identifier: NCT01701791. The first participant was enrolled on 5 May 2014 and the study was completed on May 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-737
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 28 2020


  • Computerized Clinical Decision Support Systems
  • depression
  • patient–doctor relationship
  • primary care
  • quality of life
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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