UT Southwestern Medical Center in North Texas reports that it increased depression screenings of oncology patients by 44% in a quality improvement project.
More than 90% of the hospital’s oncology patients received a screening and follow-up care, or about 14,000 patients. The findings were published Friday in the Journal for Healthcare Quality from the National Association for Healthcare Quality.
“Identifying those with depressive symptoms through earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the quality of life for these patients and their families, and prevent minor symptoms from progressing to severe psychopathology and potential self-harm,” said Dr. Jason Fish, chief medical officer at Southwestern Health Resource, a clinically integrated healthcare network with the medical center as its care provider.
The team there used the Lean Six Sigma model, often used in quality improvement initiatives, which standardized screening and follow-ups within oncology and psychiatry clinics.
An estimated 10 to 30% of current and former cancer patients develop depression, compared to 7 to 8% of adults without cancer. Because of that increased risk, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend routine depression screenings.
Around 2007, the National Cancer Institute advised that health providers help cancer survivors create survivorship plans to help previous patients keep a healthy lifestyle to ward off potential remission and also help with mental health issues that can arise.