When a patient walks through the door of a primary or specialty medical care provider, the focus is most often on his or her physical symptoms. Yet as many as 70 percent of primary care visits may involve concerns that are at least partly related to underlying depression or other behavioral health concerns.
On National Depression Screening Day and every day, ACHP members recognize the need to support implementation of the most current behavioral health screening, follow-up, appropriate treatment and care coordination activities. Their members’ health depends on it. National Depression Screening Day, a behavioral health education and screening event during Mental Illness Awareness Week in the first full week of October, is dedicated to raising awareness and screening people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders
Among our plans’ work, UPMC Health Plan, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, Priority Health, Scott & White and HealthPartners administer PHQ testing at patients’ primary care visits to screen patients for mental health issues. Providers then work with physicians and patients to determine appropriate treatment interventions, including devising depression coaching programs or referring patients to specialized treatment providers such as care managers, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists.
ACHP member plans still face challenges in providing behavioral health care. Our plans are working to improve care and coordination between primary care physicians and behavioral specialists, while simultaneously engaging members whose medical and behavioral health is complicated by various social factors, including isolation and poverty. Each plan is improving its behavioral health care measures at its own pace.
Our plans understand the importance of linking medical, behavioral and primary care to provide whole-body, long-term health care for individuals and communities. As ACHP learns more about achieving success in depression screening in its markets, it is our hope that our experiences will be of use to other plans and potentially contribute to standardizing national depression screening guidelines going forward.