Treating Depression Improves Hospital Outcomes

Treating Depression Improves Hospital Outcomes

By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

A recent blog noted the relationship between chronic pain, and other medical conditions, and depression or anxiety.  Another study at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles notes that of hospitalized patients, as many as one in three have depressive difficulties.  Depression certainly impacts the outcome of their treatment.  (

The Department of Psychiatry reviewed 20 studies on screening for depression in hospitals. They found that 33% had such difficulties as feeling down or hopeless, having little interest or pleasure in doing things, and experiencing sleep or appetite fluctuations from the patient’s normal patterns. Such screenings are not terribly complicated, and are important to complete.

When depressed, patients are less likely follow their medication regimen, as well as less likely to complete the follow-up appointments after hospitalization. This increases the risks of delays in recovery, a longer hospital stay, and more chances of being readmitted to the hospital.­­­­  As the lead investigator of the study, ­­Waguih William IsHak, MD, said, “Adding a screening for depression seizes a golden opportunity to initiate and maintain treatment.”

At Cedars-Sinai, nurses interview each patient within 24 hours of admission, initially with only two questions and mood and interest in activities.  If depression seems involved, a more detailed questionnaire is completed to cover:  energy, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, and other­­­ typical depressive symptoms.  Depressed patients are then engaged by their admitting MD, nurses, and the psychiatry team (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses, as needed).

“We know that depression is a serious factor in any patient’s recovery, IsHak said.  “These findings show that hospitals might experience improved outcomes by initiating a depression screening program.”

Once more, the powerful interaction between physical and mental health factors is supported by the evidence.  Psychotherapy is indeed a much-needed aspect of good health care.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA.  A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at (310} 539-2772 or

Copyright 2017 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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