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

Dec 28, 2021 / by The nView Health Team

Behavioral Health Questionnaires

nView Health recently hosted a virtual panel discussion where behavioral health experts discussed the current 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 so important.

What is the Purpose of a Behavioral Health Assessment?

Before we get into why behavioral health questionnaires are used, let's answer the more global question, "What is the purpose of a behavioral health assessment?" Behavioral health assessments use a combination of tests to help provide a more complete picture of a patient’s behavioral well-being and functioning. In 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 old-fashioned pen-and-paper, are an important component of the process of a behavioral health assessment.

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 done as part of a broader mental health assessment, but it is also used in other situations, such as annual wellness exams. Behavioral health questionnaires can be administered by a primary care doctor or a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker.

Whether it is 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 use 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 used for this purpose are the PHQ9 and PHQ2, 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, used both in conjunction with the PHQ2 and on its own. As with any behavioral health questionnaire, the results are just one step in helping meet a patient’s behavioral health needs. Positive results for depression on either questionnaire require further evaluation by a care provider to confirm a depression diagnosis.

Second, 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, behavioral health questionnaires like the PHQ2 and PHQ9 can do more harm than good.

5 Reasons Why Behavioral Health Questionnaires Are Important

Now let's review several 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 US 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 diagnosis and shorten 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 mental health issues that may impact other aspects of a patient's health. For instance, people with serious behavioral illness are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than 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 metnal 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 nView 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. nView may be the difference-maker you need.

Tags: mental health screeners, mental health assessment, Measurement-Based Care (MBC)

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