Mental Health News

Family Physicians Screening for Depression

Family Physicians are not always the best judges of depression, according to an Australian study which showed the aid of a simple computer tablet to be a better bet for diagnosis. When identifying patients with depression, the Family Physicians’ performance is  “poor” compared to the tablet-based Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). In fact, they found the doctors gave a diagnosis in only about half the cases where the PHQ-9 score indicated possible depression. "It is of concern that a patient presenting to a Family Physician while suffering from depression as identified by the PHQ-9 seems to have only a 50% chance of being recognized by the Family Physician as having depression,” they wrote.

In the cross sectional survey, 51 Family Physicians were asked to assess patients' depression with a range of other health risk factors to minimize response bias. The researchers then compared the Family Physicians assessment of depression with a mobile tablet version of the PHQ-9 that instantly recorded, scored and fed into patients' electronic medical records. "The low sensitivity and PPV identified in this study highlight the substantial disagreement between Family Physician assessment of depression and PHQ-9 assessment suggesting that relying on Family Physician assessment as the basis for identifying and initiating treatment for depression may be insufficient," the study authors wrote.

They concluded that screening with computers appears to be acceptable to patients and "may be useful in supporting Family Physicians in the detection of depressive disorders in primary care". Delivery of a patient self-assessment depression questionnaire via a computer tablet has the potential to alleviate several barriers to standard screening procedures," they said.


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