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Primary Care is an Untapped Resource for Depression Screening

New study using Kaiser Permanente data identifies missed opportunities for catching depression in vulnerable populations.

Hazardous alcohol use and depression often go hand-in-hand. Yet when a patient is screened by their doctor for hazardous alcohol use, rarely are they also screened for depression.

A new study has identified at-risk populations for which depression screening combined with hazardous alcohol use screening could catch depressive symptoms that might otherwise go untreated. These populations include non-white and more medically ill patients, and men in general, for whom screening rates are particularly low.

“Our study provides evidence that, with a simple questionnaire, primary care doctors have a big opportunity to better spot depressive symptoms in at-risk patients and help improve their lives through treatment,” said Matthew Hirschtritt, MD, MPH, a forensic psychiatry fellow at UC San Francisco and first author of the new study.

Hirschtritt conducted the study in collaboration with the paper’s senior author Stacy Sterling, DrPH, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s (KPNC) Division of Research. The study utilized data from more than 2,800,000 KPNC primary care patients who had been screened for hazardous alcohol use. Their findings were published September 10, 2018, in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine.

“Depressive symptoms are extremely common, but we know many people don’t make it to specialty psychiatric treatment,” said Sterling. “Many people already have strong relationship with their primary care provider, so it may actually be the perfect environment for behavioral health intervention.”

Click here to read the full story on the UCSF website.

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