Standardized Assessment of Depression Symptoms in Post-Acute Care
A Screening Threshold Approach
Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2022). doi: 10.1111/jgs.17646
Posted on RAND.org on March 08, 2022
Depression symptoms have impacts on quality of life, rehabilitation and treatment adherence, and resource utilization among patients in post-acute care (PAC) settings. The PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 are instruments for the assessment of depression, previously used in PAC settings, that have tradeoffs in terms of measurement depth versus respondent/assessor burden. Therefore, the present study tested a gateway version of the protocol (PHQ-2 to 9).
In 143 PAC settings in 14 U.S. markets across 10 states from November 2017 to August 2018, facility and research nurses administered the PHQ-2 to communicative patients (n = 3010). Nurses administered the full PHQ-9 if the patient screened positive for either of the two cardinal symptoms assessed by the PHQ-2 (depressed mood and anhedonia). We assessed the prevalence and frequency of depression symptoms using the PHQ-2 to 9, associations between depression screening results and patient characteristics and clinical conditions, and feasibility indicators.
More than 1 in 4 patients (28%) screened positive on the PHQ-2. Only 6% of those completing the full PHQ-9 had a score indicating "minimal" severity. The average score (M = 11.9) met the threshold for moderate depression. Positive PHQ-2 screening was associated with age, female gender, disposition at discharge, septicemia/severe sepsis, and dependence for ADLs of toileting and lying to sitting mobility. Age was also associated with full PHQ-9 scores; patients ages 45–64 had the highest mean score. Length of stay was not associated with PHQ-2 screening results or full PHQ-2 to 9 scores. Missing data were minimal (<2.4%). The average time to complete was 2.3 min. Interrater reliability and percent agreement were excellent.
These findings suggest the feasibility of a gateway scoring approach to standardized assessment of depression symptoms among PAC patients, and that depression symptoms are relatively common among this inpatient population.