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Top Ten Useful Measures, Assessments, and Tools for Collaborative Practices

Posted By Cheryl Holt, Thursday, January 15, 2015


In primary care, more than half of the office visits are for somatic complaints, which are often associated with depression and anxiety. These conditions often go undetected and can have a significant impact on health outcomes. As providers adopt a collaborative approach to care, many have incorporated the use of assessments for screening and early detection of symptoms of mental health and substance use conditions.

With an abundance of assessments, measures, and tools available for use, many collaborative care practices are challenged with determining which are most effective for use in the limited time available during a routine office visit. Screenings are important for all age groups. Below is a list of the top ten tools for use in practices. These ten were selected based on a number of factors, including reliability, validity, sensitivity, efficiency, and cost. In most cases, the tools are available for use at no cost. Most are also available in multiple languages as well.

1.       PHQ-9: The Patient Health Questionnaire (9) is widely used among primary care providers to identify depression. With only nine questions, this tool is easy to use and has been validated for early detection.

2.       AUDIT:  The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is a 10-item questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization and is found to be very effective in primary care settings. 

3.       GAD-7: The seven-item General Anxiety Disorder screening identifies whether a more complete assessment is needed.

4.       DAST-10: The Drug Abuse Screen Test is a brief 10-item self-report tool that is effect for screening adults and adolescents for drug abuse.

5.       PC-PTSD: This four-item screen is effective for detecting post-traumatic stress disorder in primary care settings.

6.       Pediatric Symptoms Checklist: The 17-item version is easy to use in family practices for detecting developmental and behavioral problems.

7.       SBQ-R: The Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire is a four-question scale for assessing suicide-related thoughts and behaviors.

8.       Brief Pain Inventory: The tool is widely used in medical settings for assessing pain, and is available in 23 languages.

9.       Insomnia Severity Scale: This seven-question screening assessment is effective in identifying problems with sleeping.

10.   MDQ: The Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) is a 13-item questionnaire used to screen for bipolar disorder symptoms.

There are many excellent tools that did not make this list   


In order to limit the list to ten, there are many excellent tools that did not make this list. For example, some providers prefer the CAGE-AID to the AUDIT-7 for alcohol screening. In addition, many will find it very useful to have additional tools on hand to screen for additional conditions, such as:

·         Geriatric depression

·         Eating disorders

·         Postpartum depression

·         Intimate partner violence

·         ADHD

·         Autism

Integrating these tools into your electronic health record, including them in patient kiosks, and/or instructing support staff to make select tools available for completion while in the reception area are ways in which these tools have been included in practices. With routine use of many of these screening tools, collaborative care practices will efficiently and effectively detect signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions. This enables earlier intervention, resulting in better health outcomes.

What is on your top ten list?

Cheryl Holt, MA, CEO of Behavioral Health Integration Consulting, LLC, is an advocate for the integration of behavioral and primary healthcare for whole-person health and assists organizations in adopting a whole-health focus. She is active in social media promoting integrated care, behavioral health policy, and global mental health. She blogs regularly via the Behavioral Health Integration blog and manages LinkedIn's Behavioral Health Integration group and the Behavioral Health Integration page on Facebook. You can follow her on Twitter: @cherylholt, @BHPCIntegration, and @WorldMentalHlth 


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