The new recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) encourage primary care physicians to initiate depression screening for all adult patients at least once, regardless of their risk factors.
These recommendations have been updated from those in 2009, in two significant ways:
“These recommendations are taking something that is good and making it even better,” said Dr. Michael E. Thase, professor of psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania. “They no longer say ‘when support is available’ because they just assume that it’s available. The care for depression in primary care settings is improving.”
The importance of early screening
The USPSTF gathered credible evidence considering the importance of early screening. The evidence showed that:
Screening for depression
Many primary care doctors are likely to already be screening patients for depression, and current recommendations are expected to propel screenings further. Certain electronic medical systems require doctors to state having screened a patient before they can complete the appointment.
Screenings are typically conducted through the completion of a test by the patient, either on paper or electronically, while waiting to see the doctor. If the test discloses a risk of depression, a more thorough evaluation and detailed communication about treatment with the patient are conducted.
Research projects the nine-question test called the Patient Health Questionnaire to be a reliable indicator for identifying individuals at risk of having depression. Moving beyond mood, fatigue and concentration, the test also involves questions regarding appetite, interest in activities and thoughts of self-harm.
A seven-question test has also been recommended as an alternative for screening. Older adults and women during the perinatal period may need to be screened with variations of these tests.
Even though the efficacy of these tests is supported by substantial evidence, they do have certain shortcomings:
Major depressive disorder is one of the leading public health problems in the world, but the increasing availability of effective treatments is helping to combat the disorder’s high mortality and morbidity. Hence, the importance of ensuring efficient methods for population screening cannot be stressed enough.
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About the author
Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.