UCSF study implements routine depression checks during primary care visits

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, but it often goes unrecognized.
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, but it often goes unrecognized. Photo credit Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, but it often goes unrecognized.

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One of the reasons may be that there are so many things to take care of in primary care that depression falls to the back burner, especially among patients who have complex medical conditions, who are older, or those who have language barriers.

Dr. Maria Garcia is the author of a UCSF study that implemented a policy to routinely screen for depression when patients see their primary health care doctor. Over two years, depression screening rates more than doubled, reaching around 90%.

"It's super important not just for quality of life for patients in terms of how debilitating depression itself can be, but it just has such a domino effect on so many other conditions," Garcia told KCBS Radio's "As Prescribed."

Many patients struggle to recognize that they're experiencing symptoms of depression like low mood, fatigue or poor appetite, Garcia explained. The UCSF screening during primary care opens doors for care that would’ve previously stayed shut.

"Then that may lead to a conversation about how long the symptoms have been going on, what the symptoms have been attributed to and what they’re associated with, and then the doctor may decide that it is truly a case of depression that warrants some treatment either with medication or with a referral to therapy," Garcia said.

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