Back to Insights and Updates for ProvidersMay 2024

Depression screening in the primary care setting

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With many patients turning to their primary care doctors with physical symptoms that often co-exist with depression, we are reminding our provider partners of the importance of conducting depression screening during routine medical office visits.

There are several depression screening tools available for use in primary care, including the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-2) as well as the PHQ-9. The PHQ-9 is indicated when a patient conveys feelings of hopelessness, depression, or lack of interest when given the PHQ-2. The PHQ-9 is considered a strong foundation for diagnosis, symptom monitoring, and determination of treatment, including the need for specialty and collaborative care.

Additional depression screening tools and provider resources, as well as recommendations for follow-up protocol based on PHQ-9 scores can be found within Point32Health’s Guide for Treating Depression in the Primary Care Setting.

Impacting patient medication adherence

According to the National Institutes of Health, primary care providers prescribe 79% of antidepressant medications for people in the U.S. who are being treated for depression. Prescribing physicians can create a foundation for successful patient medication adherence by:

  • Educating patients on the medication’s purpose, benefits, and potential side effects
  • Explaining the importance of taking medication as prescribed and explaining the importance of continuing to take medication even after beginning to feel better
  • Encouraging patients to choose automatic prescription refill and mail delivery options
  • Scheduling appointments with patients within four weeks after prescribing medication, with subsequent phone call and appointment follow up as needed
  • Reminding patients to reach out with medication questions and for support during treatment

Depression resources for your patients 

Primary care physicians can further assist patients and families by sharing Point32Health’s behavioral health hubs, where Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan members can find behavioral health providers and specialists, research virtual visit options, and connect with support resources. These dedicated web pages also provide information on behavioral health service navigation, care management, and trauma resources, as well as mindfulness programs for Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts Health Plan members.

For patients who could benefit from the interpersonal support and structure of an in-person or virtual depression support group, there are a variety of resources you can share, including:

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Anxiety & Depression Association of America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Facilitating follow-up care

We appreciate the commitment of primary care physicians to identifying behavioral health needs of their patients and facilitating follow-up services in a timely manner. For assistance with locating a behavioral health clinician for your Harvard Pilgrim Health Care members, call the Harvard Pilgrim Provider Service Center at 800-708-4414. For help finding a behavioral health clinician for your Tufts Health Plan members, please call the provider phone number associated with the member’s plan.

Audrey Kleinberg,
Director, Provider Relations & Communications

Annmarie Dadoly,
Senior Manager, Provider Communications

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