Improving validated depression screen among adolescent population in primary care practice using electronic health records (EHR)

BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2015 Oct 21;4(1):u209517.w3913. doi: 10.1136/bmjquality.u209517.w3913. eCollection 2015.


Adolescent depression, has been identified as one of the important risk factors for adolescent safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening the adolescent population for depression with a validated screening tool at least once a year. Given the time constraints in primary care, many physicians tend to rely more on clinical questioning to screen depression.This has the potential to miss many adolescents who may have mild to moderate depression which may prove detrimental to their emotional and physical health. Quality measures had consistently indicated that the validated adolescent depression screening rate in our two pediatric clinics was 10-15% in the past two years starting from 2012. There was a need to increase our screening rate for adolescent depression with a validated questionnaire. The stakeholders identified were physicians, nurses and the health information team (HIT). The Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) is a standardized tool and serves as a good first step rapid screening of the population. A decision was made to implement the use of PHQ-2 to all the adolescents aged 11-21. A clinic flow protocol was developed. As the patient checks in, there will be a computer pop-up reminding nurses to administer the PHQ-2. The PHQ-2 self-scores in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) and if the score is three or more the nurses would automatically administer the PHQ-9 which is also embedded and self-scored in the EHR. After 12 months of implementing this project with four PDSA cycles, the adolescent depression-screening rate improved from 10-15% from the previous two years to 65% (six month period) and 82% at the end of the 12 month period. The rate of referral to mental health services had also increased in the same time period compared to the previous years. In conclusion, screening for adolescent depression with a brief validated tool in a busy primary care office is possible with the help of the EHR.