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Telehealth screen for depression in a chronic illness care management program.

Turvey CL, Willyard D, Hickman DH, Klein DM, Kukoyi O. Telehealth screen for depression in a chronic illness care management program. Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. 2007 Feb 1; 13(1):51-6.

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Chronic illness accounts for the majority of healthcare expenditures in the United States. Innovative telemedicine programs have been developed to help lessen the chronic illness burden, yet few have been developed to address comorbidity. Programs accommodating comorbidity are needed because most older adults suffer from two or more chronic illnesses. One of the most common and serious comorbidities in chronic illness is major depression, which has been shown to exacerbate morbidity, mortality, and cost. This study presents data on a telephone-based interactive voice recording (IVR) home monitoring program that was expanded to include quarterly screens for depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). Patients in an ongoing telehealth heart failure program were administered the PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 in November 2005 (Round 1) and February 2006 (Round 2). Patients were informed about the screen beforehand and an emergency protocol was established. At both screens, more than 90% of the patients completed the screen. Approximately 30% of the patients endorsed one of the PHQ-2 items in both rounds. Patients endorsing either of the PHQ-2 items then completed the full PHQ-9. Nurse care-managers contacted those scoring above the threshold of 10 on the PHQ-9 indicating possible depression. One patient expressed suicidality and was appropriately assessed for safety. There was no indication that patients were less likely to complete the screen in Round 2, although their average depression scores were slightly lower when compared with Round 1. A regular telephonic IVR screen for depression can be integrated into a standard illness management protocol. Following a preestablished emergency plan for the assessment of suicidality was successful. This serves as a model for using technology to manage comorbid depression and chronic illness.

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