Depression Screening for Hospital Physicians: A Public Health Approach

In many hospitals and medical centers, appropriate concerns about protecting patients from impaired physicians have inadvertently created a climate in which unimpaired physicians needing help for conditions such as depression fear damage to their academic and career prospects if they seek the treatment that might prevent impairment from developing. SPI is introducing an anonymous self administered screening for depression in physicians working in hospitals. When indicated, physicians will be given a referral or the option of a consultation: both will remain confidential.

The Joint Commission - which accredits hospitals - is encouraging this effort. After demonstrable success in selected hospitals, the Commission will consider recommending or mandating it for all hospitals. Through our work both with licensing boards and with hospitals we expect to move the medical culture toward a public health approach that stresses prevention and encourages and facilitates seeking and finding help for depression before impairment develops.