Your New Role in the Battle Against Depression
Pharmacists have a role for those who are fighting depression
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that screening for depression be done in all adults in the general population, including women who are pregnant or postpartum.
There’s a clear need for these screenings to take place and experts in the industry say pharmacists’ position of trust and accessibility to patients gives them a unique opportunity to provide the screenings—whether it’s in a community pharmacy or a health-system setting.
“I see my patients every month as opposed to once a year. I have the opportunity to develop inroads and relationships and make interventions that really matter,” says John A. Galdo, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, a pharmacist at FMS Pharmacy in Bessemer, AL.
Community pharmacists usually have tools for patients to screen their blood pressure or blood glucose, so providing avenues to screen other aspects of health—such as mental health—is a logical fit. John Norton, Director of Public Relations for the National Community Pharmacists Association, says health screenings can also provide pharmacies an opportunity to diversify their revenue.
The screening tools for depression are often brief and don’t require specialized skills to conduct. For instance, the patient health questionnaire 2 (PHQ-2) asks just two questions. A more thorough version, the PHQ-9, poses nine to ten questions depending on the patient’s response.
To assess how these screenings can be most effective in the community setting, Jordan Marie Ballou, PharmD, did a small study to examine various delivery methods.
At the time, Ballou was working at Brame Huie Pharmacy in North Wilkesboro, NC, as a PGY1 community pharmacy resident with the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. She used the PHQ-9 to screen people who came into the pharmacy.
Patients were given the survey one of three ways: either placed into a customer’s bag, given a written version of the questionnaire at the drop-off station to fill out while the customer waited, or were asked the questions by a pharmacist.
Ballou, who works as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, found that stuffing the customer’s bag proved to be very ineffective—just 1 out of 50 customers filled out the survey and returned it. But both of the other methods received high participation rates (72% for the group receiving the written test at the drop-off counter and 80% in the group verbally interviewed).
“People were really responsive and I think that speaks highly to the trust patients put into their pharmacists to be able to have those difficult conversations,” she says.
While Walgreens’ pharmacists don’t offer the screenings themselves, the company has partnered with Mental Health America to try to connect more people to available resources in the community. A new portion of Walgreens’ website focuses on mental health and can connect people to free online screenings for multiple conditions, including depression.