Operationalizing Depression Screening in Ambulatory Palliative Care: A Quality Improvement Project



      Depression is common in the palliative care setting and impacts outcomes. Operationalized screening is unusual in palliative care.

      Local Problem

      Lack of operationalized depression screening at two ambulatory palliative care sites.


      A fellow-driven quality improvement initiative to implement operationalized depression screening using the patient health questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2). The primary measure was rate of EMR-documented depression screening. Secondary measures were clinician perspectives on the feasibility and acceptability of implementing the PHQ-2.


      The intervention is a clinic-wide implementation of PHQ-2 screening supported by note templates, brief clinician training, referral resources for clinicians, and opportunities for indirect psychiatric consultation.


      Operationalized depression screening rates increased from 2% to 38%. All clinicians felt incorporation of depression screening was useful and feasible.


      Operationalized depression screening is feasible in ambulatory palliative care workflow, though optimization through having screening be completed prior to clinician visit might improve uptake.

      Key Words

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