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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

December 2017

Depression Screening and Treatment

Given the prevalence of clinical depression in the United States — 16.1 million adults (approximately 6.7 percent of all adults in the country) had at least one major depressive episode in 2015, according to the National Institute of Mental Health — it is vital for primary care physicians to appropriately screen patients suspected of having a depressive disorder to determine the severity and the most suitable treatment plan.

The care for a patient diagnosed with depression may involve collaboration among the PCP and behavioral health practitioners, and may consist of referring the patient for psychotherapy, prescribing antidepressants, or a combination of both. 

HEDIS Depression Care Measures Set and PHQ-9 for screening
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has a set of HEDIS measures addressing depression screening, care, and outcomes in adolescents and adults, which aim to determine whether members of health plans like Harvard Pilgrim get screened appropriately for depression, and if they receive care that leads to improved outcomes.
The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) is a reliable, efficient tool for assessing and monitoring the severity of depression in behavioral health patients, serving as a strong base for diagnosis and coordination of follow-up care. The questionnaire, which can be completed by the patient in minutes, rates the frequency of depressive symptoms. A non-scored follow-up question on the PHQ-9 assesses the degree to which the patient’s depression has affected his or her level of function.

The treating physician can score the results of the questionnaire rapidly, and can administer the PHQ-9 multiple times throughout the course of treatment to monitor improvement or worsening of depressive symptoms.

How Optum/UBH can help you

Once you have diagnosed a patient with depression, Optum/UBH can assist with a referral for outpatient behavioral health services by locating in-network providers for both mental health and chemical dependencies. They can help locate practitioners for initial screening evaluations and subsequent psychological or neuropsychological testing referrals.

Optum/UBH can also help with the transferring of patients for inpatient behavioral health services (when medically necessary), coordination of bedside psychiatric consultation for patients admitted to medical inpatient units, and the location of in-network behavioral health service providers to facilitate discharge planning.

How Optum/UBH can help your patients — For complex clinical situations, Optum/UBH is available to provide consultative assistance. Practitioners can call the Optum/UBH Physicians Consultation Service at 800-292-2922. To refer a patient for behavioral health services and to facilitate the coordination of care, call Optum at 888-777-4742.

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