Many medical clinics now carry out depression screening of every patient at every visit. It is becoming part of routine clinical care, just like obtaining vital signs such as blood pressure or temperature. An easy-to-use and validated tool for depression screening is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which consists of nine questions that directly correlate to the nine diagnostic criteria for depression from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V).
Using the PHQ-9 is a good first step to identifying if a patient may have depression. A total score of 10 or more indicates the likelihood of having major depression. The PHQ-9 can be administered by medical assistants, nurses, social workers, physicians, or can be self-administered by the patient. Some clinics use the first two cardinal questions from the PHQ-9 – called the PHQ-2 – as a way to screen for depression; if one of the two items is positive then a full PHQ-9 is administered.