Advancing Research

What's Hot in PD? Measuring Quality and Assessing Depression in Parkinson’s Disease

depressed woman

April is Parkinson’s disease awareness month and we thought it would be fitting to discuss how we are approaching the measurement of quality, and how best to measure depression at the bedside in Parkinson’s disease.

The Parkinson's Foundation has been committed to improving the quality of care throughout its Centers of Excellence network and throughout the world by funding and promoting the Quality Improvement Initiative Study. The study was modeled after the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s successful registry, profiled by Atul Gawande. In the Cystic Fibrosis experience, their focus on identifying best practices yielded a 10 year increase in life expectancy. In Parkinson’s disease we are hoping for similar success.

The Parkinson's Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative was launched several years ago and the aim was to understand Parkinson’s disease and its care by annually completing a simple profile of the status of people with Parkinson’s and the treatments they receive: one patient assessed on one page, once a year. The study now has 5000 enrolled patients, and, by looking at how patients change each year, we are getting new insight into important issues like mobility, depression, and cognition in patients and their impacts on quality of life, caregiver stress, and hospitalization. 

A management guru named Peter Drucker described his philosophy as, “what’s measured improves.” Now, for the first time in a massive, multi-center study across all stages of the disease, we are measuring health and health care in people with Parkinson’s. I am really thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and I and my team are drawing insight from this project every day.

Another of the leaders on our Quality Improvement Initiative is Laura Marsh, MD, of the Houston VA. She specializes in mental health and Parkinson’s and has focused on the evaluation of depression in Parkinson’s disease. This month she published the long-awaited Methods of Optimal Depression Detection in Parkinson's Disease (MOOD-PD) study. This study compared 9 depression scales and made recommendations for use in Parkinson’s disease.

The most important finding was that depression is more common than many thought. She recommends that doctors always screen for depression in Parkinson’s disease patients because it can be well managed, but when it’s not identified, it can affect everything in a patient’s life. Interestingly, the depression screening on the commonly used Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale performed the worst, and was not recommended for use in screening patients. All other scales performed well. The authors stressed that depression screening should be part of the routine evaluation in Parkinson’s disease patients.

In conclusion, as we strive for better quality of care, we will need to improve our ability to measure quality and to select bedside tests that can help us to better optimize the management of all Parkinson’s disease patients. The Parkinson's Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative Study and the MOOD-PD study are two important steps in this direction.

Selected References

1. Okun MS, Siderowf A, Nutt JG, O'Conner GT, Bloem BR, Olmstead EM, Guttman M, Simuni T, Cheng E, Cohen EV, Parashos S, Marsh L, Malaty IA, Giladi N, Schmidt P, Oberdorf J. Piloting the NPF data-driven quality improvement initiative. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2010 Sep;16(8):517-21. Epub 2010 Jul 6. PubMed PMID: 20609611.

2. Williams JR, Hirsch ES, Anderson K, Bush AL, Goldstein SR, Grill S, Lehmann S, Little JT, Margolis RL, Palanci J, Pontone G, Weiss H, Rabins P, Marsh L. A comparison of nine scales to detect depression in Parkinson disease: Which scale to use? Neurology. 2012 Mar 14. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22422897.

Michael S. Okun, National Medical Advisor

You can find out more about our National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, by also visiting the Center of Excellence, University of Florida Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Dr. Okun is also the author of the Amazon #1 Parkinson's Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life and 10 Breakthrough Therapies for Parkinson's Disease.

For more insights on this topic, listen to our podcast episode “Staging PD – UPDRS: What it Measures and What Your Score Means”.


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