Thanks to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, depression screening could become part of routine checks while we visit the office of our family doctors.
The recommendation was released on Monday and so far it was received well within the medical community and by patients alike. Depression is a serious issue that affects both mental health and body health.
A visit to specialized medical offices is typically an option that is only taken when it is too late and depression took ahold of a patient’s life. Symptoms are dismissed as a bad day or week or even month, while depression slowly creeps in.
As such, the recommendation of the USPSTF comes to ease the process of acknowledgement and diagnose and ease the way to specialized help. What the task force proposes is that instead of spending our time browsing through the magazines in the waiting room of the office, we fill out a questionnaire designed to correctly identify the risk of depression or if we are already suffering from it.
From the perspective of preventive medicine, the idea is brilliant. The questionnaire could also be downloaded online and filled in the intimacy of the home and then submitted to the family doctor.
Alternatively, it could be filled in right in the presence of the doctor if that makes people more comfortable. Either way, it would work as a powerful screening tool that could aid greatly in detecting depression or early signs of depression.
Doctor Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the vice chair of the USPSTF stated:
“This could be a checklist that patients fill out in the waiting room, or at home, prior to the visit. The good thing is we have many instruments, measures that have been studies for screening for depression”.
According to statistical evidence released by the task force, 7 percent of U.S. adults suffer from depression. However, approximately half have been diagnosed so far.
This easy tool to screen for depression would be a questionnaire called the Patient Health Questionnaire or PHQ-9. It comprises 10 questions targeting sleep issues experienced by the patient, their level of energy and interest in daily activities, as well as appetite and other areas that indicate signs of depression.
It is also recommended that family doctors, the first contact patients have do not treat the questionnaire as a diagnosis tool. It is merely a screening tool that offers first hand information that should be interpreted carefully.
Following a careful assessment, doctors are responsible for referring their patients to specialists in case signs of depression have been found.
The recommendation coming from the USPSTF is graded B. The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare includes both grade A and grade B recommendations without any costs to patients.
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