According to a new study, patients visiting the hospital for various ailments can be easily and quickly screened for depression and anxiety as they wait for care - and this information can then be shared immediately with their doctor.
Researchers at King's College London University tested an electronic questionnaire with patients in six specialty services - rheumatology, limb reconstruction, hepatitis C, psoriasis, congenital heart disease and chronic pain - in three London hospitals.
In the questionnaire, patients were asked to complete questions on a wireless touchscreen device while in the waiting room. They answered questions about depression and anxiety as well as about their physical health and lifestyle behaviors. The results were immediately transmitted to the healthcare provider, who then discussed them with the patient during the ensuing visit.
Healthcare experts believe that this system can be very effective at providing clinicians with real-time information about their patients. Not only that, it makes effective use of waiting room time and provides useful information in a format which is easy for non-mental health professionals to interpret and act upon.
Originally, the study was done to test the use of the wireless touchscreen device - but it also allowed researchers to evaluate the prevalence of depression and anxiety in patients waiting for care.
An analysis of the datat revealed that prevalence of probable depression ranged from 6.6 percent in patients with congenital heart disease to 60.9 percent in patients with chronic pain. Prevalence of probable anxiety ranged from 11.4 percent in patients with congenital heart disease to 25.1 percent in rheumatology patients.
The different rates of prevalence of possible depression and anxiety is a typical example of the complex interaction between physical and mental health. It highlights the fact that every patient is a unique case, with very different needs.
Screening for depression and anxiety is important because mental health issues factor into cardiovascular disease and other conditions.
Health experts believe the test system used at the London hospitals is so effective because of how quickly patients accept it and how it directly engages both patients and their doctors.
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