When the same patient has two difficult medical conditions at once, it complicates successful treatment. A University of Pennsylvania study examined a way to help those affected by both depression and diabetes.

Depression and diabetes are linked — having depression is a risk factor for developing diabetes, and those with diabetes are at higher risk for suffering depression. Patients who have both conditions are less likely to adhere to their medication regimens, and their overall health and prognosis are worse.

University of Pennsylvania researchers developed a simple intervention to help. Patients discussed what kept them from taking their meds, and then came up with ways to overcome the barriers. For example, if side effects are the problem, they found ways to minimize them or changed medications.

Dr. Hillary Bogner, lead investigator, said patients who participated in this intervention did much better than their peers, significantly improving their blood-sugar levels and depression.

And patients reported that they enjoyed teaming up with their health care providers, she said.

"They liked the increased contact they got in the primary-care practice, and the increased attention — the feeling that there were people looking over their medicines and how they were taking their medicines," Bogner said.

She said the study's results show that brief interventions can have a big impact, and points to a larger issue.

"Another take-home point for this intervention is that we really need to integrate the management for physical and mental health in primary care settings," said Bogner, adding that the idea of integrating mental and physical health care is garnering more support.