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Behavioral Health Questionnaires: What Are They and Why Are They Used?

Proem Behavioral Health hosted a virtual panel discussion where behavioral health experts discussed the challenges and opportunities for healthcare providers around behavioral healthcare. Among the topics, these industry leaders discussed was the importance of using a variety of tools to help support patients’ behavioral health needs. 

Let’s take a closer look at one of these tools: behavioral health questionnaires, sometimes administered as part of a behavioral health assessment. We will go over what they are and how they are helping screen for mental health concerns like depression. We will then highlight a few reasons why behavioral health questionnaires are one of the most important psychological assessment tools and techniques. 

What is the Purpose of a Behavioral Health Assessment?

Before we get into why behavioral health questionnaires are used, let's answer a more global question: "What is the purpose of a behavioral health assessment?" When you examine mental health assessment examples, you’ll notice that most use a combination of tests to help provide a more complete picture of a patient’s behavioral well-being and functioning. For a behavioral health assessment, a doctor may combine findings from a physical exam, laboratory tests, and behavioral health questionnaires to help connect behavioral health and physical health issues. Questionnaires, whether administered verbally, electronically, or via pen and paper, are an important component of the behavioral health assessment process. 

Behavioral health questionnaires are used in a variety of physician office and hospital settings to screen patients for specific disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. A behavioral health questionnaire might be completed as part of a broader mental health assessment, but it is also used in other situations, such as the Medicare annual wellness visit. Behavioral health questionnaires can be administered by a professional trained in psychological assessment tools and techniques such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker, and they can also be conducted by a primary care doctor or specialist. 

Whether administered in the context of other mental health assessments or on its own, a questionnaire should be reliable and evidence-based. Other factors that add to a behavioral health questionnaire’s usefulness are whether it can be administered digitally and its ease of completion by patients. 

Screening for Depression with Behavioral Health Questionnaires

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that primary care physicians screen adolescents aged 12 to 18 and all adults over 18 for depression. Two of the most common behavioral health questionnaires found on mental health screening tools lists used for this purpose are the PHQ2 and PHQ9, with PHQ standing for patient health questionnaire. 

The PHQ2, which consists of just two questions about mood and anhedonia, may rule out, but not definitively diagnose, depression. A positive result on the PHQ2 may be followed up with the nine-question PHQ9. This behavioral health questionnaire is one of the most widely used tools for depression screening, with it used both in conjunction with the PHQ2 and on its own. As with any behavioral health questionnaire, the results from a PHQ9 are just one step in helping meet a patient’s behavioral health needs. Positive results for depression on either PHQ require further evaluation by a care provider to confirm a depression diagnosis. 

In addition, even though they are intended as screening tools, the PHQ2 and PHQ9 have increasingly become treated as diagnostic tools. Sometimes these behavioral health questionnaires are even used in therapeutic decision-making, such as whether to prescribe certain pharmaceuticals. When used to make a diagnosis, mental health evaluation questions found in tools like the PHQ2 and PHQ9 can do more harm than good. 

Download the eBook The Guide to Behavioral Health Assessment Software:  Improving Assessments & Patient Outcomes here.

5 Reasons Why Behavioral Health Questionnaires Are Important

Now let's review five reasons why it's important for healthcare providers to use behavioral health questionnaires. 

1. Behavioral health matters.

Millions of people in the United States are affected by mental illness, and many of them go undiagnosed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experiences behavioral illness each year. Behavioral health questionnaires can help providers identify mental health concerns as part of one’s overall wellness check. 

2. Early diagnosis is essential.

Approximately 50% of lifetime behavioral health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% begin by age 24. Yet, the average delay between when symptoms first appear and intervention is 11 years. Behavioral health questionnaires help providers make early diagnoses and shorten the time to treatment. 

3. The right behavioral health questionnaire helps improve treatment outcomes.

A good behavioral health questionnaire can help lead clinicians to more accurate diagnoses and effective treatments for mental illnesses. Early intervention can improve outcomes for patients. In addition, these questionnaires can be used to measure improvements and track progress during treatment. 

4. Behavioral health can affect physical health.

Behavioral health questionnaires can pick up on mental health issues that may impact other aspects of a patient's health. For instance, people with serious behavioral illnesses are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as the general population. And behavioral health concerns like depression or anxiety can impact how a patient cares for their physical health. 

5. Research requires standardization.

For their findings to have wide applicability, researchers studying mental illness need valid, standardized tests. Behavioral health questionnaires are used to measure and track participants’ symptoms in clinical trials of pharmaceuticals and other treatments. 

Improving Your Usage of Behavioral Health Questionnaires

Is your organization looking to strengthen how you support the behavioral health needs of your patients? Contact Proem today. You'll learn about our behavioral health questionnaires, screening solutions, structured diagnostic interviews, severity measurement scales, and post-diagnosis monitors to assess patient outcomes. Proem may be the difference-maker you need.

If you’re looking for other behavioral health assessment tools and mental health solutions that can support your efforts to more accurately and consistently identify, diagnose and monitor mental illness, contact us. Proem helps drive better outcomes for patients through our intelligent workflow engine that captures and shares data at every step of the behavioral healthcare process. We provide data-driven insights to help providers assess and diagnose mental illness with accuracy.  

The Guide to Behavioral Health Assessment Software: Improving Assessments & Patient Outcomes

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