Institute for Family Health Screens 90% of Patients for Depression

Bringing mental health discussions to primary care using Epic

To better support patients at risk of suicide, the Institute for Family Health (IFH) in New York has teamed up with the Zero Suicide initiative to screen as many of their primary care patients as possible for symptoms of depression.

Research has shown that anywhere from 25% to 60% of people contemplating suicide seek medical attention in the weeks before their death, but four out of every five of those people visit a primary care physician rather than seeking psychiatric help. This statistic prompted IFH to make a major shift in their approach to depression screening, and today they are successfully screening 90% of primary care patients for symptoms of depression.

According to program coordinators at IFH, the bulk of their program involved changing the mindset of clinicians and management to bring more attention to mental healthcare. To facilitate that shift, they used a comprehensive mental health questionnaire in Epic and trained clinicians on how to respond to patients with symptoms of depression. When a patient with suicidal thoughts is identified, that patient’s header turns red in their Epic chart, and clinicians are directed to a Safety Plan form which they can use to make a personalized plan for avoiding self-harm.

Epic community members can download this program here and have Epic staff install it as part of Epic’s Services.

The Zero Suicide initiative is a comprehensive performance improvement framework with the goal of zero defects in patient care for those at risk of suicide. By combining the initiative’s seven evidence-based components, participating healthcare systems have reduced instances of suicide for those in their care by as much as 75%. Learn more about the Zero Suicide initiative here.