Primary Care Companion

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Variations in the Probability of Depression Screening at Community-Based Physician Practice Visits

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(5):e1-e8

Background: Despite depression screening being a US Preventive Services Task Force–recommended practice in primary care, little is known about the degree to which it is performed and the factors associated with its conduct.

Method: Using a nationally representative sample (National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey) of adult, community-based physician practice visits during the survey years 2005 to 2007 (total = 55,143; representing approximately 1.7 billion visits nationally), we estimated the probability of depression screening and variation by visit characteristics.

Results: Depression screening occurred at 2.29% of adult, community-based physician practice visits. Visits with primary care physicians were more likely to include depression screening (AOR = 2.19; 95% CI, 1.31–3.65), as were visits for preventive (AOR = 4.09; 95% CI, 2.55–6.57) and chronic care (AOR = 2.00; 95% CI, 1.44–2.80) compared to visits for acute care. Compared to the Northeast, visits in the West were less likely to include depression screening (AOR = 0.27; 95% CI, 0.13–0.57), as were visits for patients having 6 visits within the past 12 months (AOR = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.42–1.00) when compared to visits for new patients. Depression screening was more common at visits for patients with ICD-9–diagnosed depression (AOR = 7.51; 95% CI, 5.38–10.50) and for females (AOR = 1.26; 95% CI, 1.00–1.57). Bivariate analyses revealed that depression screening was more common at visits for patients with hyperlipidemia (3.21% vs 2.09%, P = .0086), obesity (4.59% vs 2.08%, P < .0001), and osteoporosis (4.46% vs 2.21%, P = .0002) and less common at visits for patients with diabetes (1.58% vs 2.39%, P = .0102).

Conclusions: Depression screening at community-based physician practice visits in the United States appears to be low (2.29%) and may reflect an undefined optimal screening interval or strategy in published guidelines, lack of reimbursement incentives, or incomplete documentation in the medical record. Opportunities exist to improve depression screening in males, patients with chronic disease (especially diabetes), and the western region of the United States.

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2010;12(5):e1–e8

Submitted: October 8, 2009; accepted January 4, 2010.

Published online: October 7, 2010 (doi:10.4088/PCC.09m00911blu).

Corresponding author: Donald L. Harrison, PhD, University of Oklahoma, College of Pharmacy, 1110 N Stonewall Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73117 (