Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Month, and Kaiser Permanente has joined forces with the National Council for Behavioral Health, Mental Health America, and other organizations across the country to help raise awareness around the importance of early identification of symptoms and reducing stigma around mental illness. Guest blogger Christina Kerby spoke with several people from the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute for the following post.
When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we begin with prevention. When people begin to show signs such as a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to identify the problem and reverse these symptoms. We don’t ignore them. In fact, we develop a plan of action to reverse and sometimes stop the progression of the disease. So why aren’t we doing the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?
Mental health conditions should be addressed long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. One of the best ways to identify early symptoms is through routine use of tools in primary care settings that can aid in diagnosis and gauging effectiveness of treatment. One such tool is the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, or PHQ-9, a brief questionnaire that can be administered by any clinician as part of routine office visits or online via secure messaging.
The PHQ‐9 has been shown to be a useful tool not only for assessment and diagnosing, but also for monitoring treatment of major depression. To understand how this tool can be best used across the continuum of care, and how consistent use can improve depression control rates, we turned to our Seattle-based affiliate Group Health, which has experienced excellent results through its Depression Care Program.
To better understand Group Health’s success, we interviewed patients and care providers, collected and analyzed performance data, observed care settings, and pulled together the results in this case study.
“We found that Group Health consistently outperforms external benchmarks for six-month remission rates after a new diagnosis of depression,” said Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD, Senior Manager for Behavioral Health at Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute.
Kaiser Permanente’s use of the PHQ-9 to assess symptom severity at the beginning of a depression episode has improved, helped by tools within our electronic medical record to enable easier administration and capture of the PHQ-9. The Northwest Region, in particular, has seen an improvement from 20% to 77% of members being assessed at the beginning of their episode.
“This is powerful data that shows the integration of behavioral health into primary care settings improves outcomes for patients by helping to identify symptoms early on,” said Dr. Bertagnolli.
In addition to improving assessment rates and outcomes, we can use Group Health’s performance to inform the way we spread and operationalize practices that improve care and outcomes for our members and patients. The case study examines how to generate will, change a culture, and support and sustain the practice. The case study is a rich resource for other organizations also wanting to learn from a leading performer in depression care.
“Kaiser Permanente’s integrated system enables us to spread leading practices quickly,” said Scott Young, MD, of the Permanente Federation. “This case study represents our commitment to learning and sharing for the benefit of providers and patients everywhere.”