Last published Oct. 26, 2021
Screening and Treatment
The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimated 21 million American adults, or 8.4% of the adult population, have had at least one depressive episode (NIH, 2022). Depression may adversely affect treatment and create barriers to management of other chronic medical conditions. Patient outcomes can improve when patients are assessed for symptoms, screened for depression, and receive treatment. Screening should utilize evidence-based screening tools to ensure accurate diagnosis, efficient treatment, and appropriate follow-up.
After a positive depression screening, providers should discuss screening results with patients and provide an individualized, evidence-based treatment plan. The plan should include a follow-up assessment and support for medication adherence and referral to a behavioral health provider when needed. Depression is remarkably responsive to antidepressant therapy, but only if the patient receives appropriate treatment in a timely manner. Proper treatment of depression has been proven to effectively reduce symptoms, decrease the risk of relapse, emergency department visits, and hospitalization rates (Simon, M.D., 2019).
Treating Depression with Telemedicine
Telehealth has been used in clinical settings for over 60 years and telehealth visits for mental health increased by 556 percent between March 11 and April 22, 2020, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic (SAMHSA, 2021). Antidepressant therapy treatments delivered through telehealth have been shown to improve health outcomes, recovery, crisis support, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) across diverse behavioral health and primary care settings because it makes services more accessible and convenient. Leveraging telemedicine for mental health may allow an otherwise reluctant member to receive desperately needed care, reduce health disparities, and resolve treatment gaps.
- An estimated 21.0 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.4% of all U.S. adults.
Simon, M.D., 2019