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This article is the authors’ final published version in Pediatric Rheumatology, Volume 19, Issue 1, August 2021, Article number 116.

The published version is available at Copyright © Mulvihill et al.


BACKGROUND: Despite being at high risk for depression, patients with childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (c-SLE) are infrequently and inconsistently screened for depression by their pediatric rheumatologists. We aimed to systematically increase rates of formal depression screening for c-SLE patients in an academic Pediatric Rheumatology clinic.

METHODS: Our multi-disciplinary quality improvement (QI) team used electronic health record (EHR) documentation to retroactively calculate baseline rates of documented depression screening using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). We then engaged key stakeholders to develop a clinical workflow for formal depression screening in the clinic. We also provided education to providers regarding mental health disorders in c-SLE, with an emphasis on prevalence, screening methods, and management of positive screens. We then used the Plan-Do-Study Act (PDSA) method of QI to systematically evaluate and adjust our process in real time. The primary outcome was the percentage of patients with c-SLE seen per month who had a documented PHQ-9 screening within the past year.

RESULTS: The percentage of children with documented PHQ-9 results ranged from 0 to 4.5 % at baseline to 91.0 % within 12 months of project initiation. By the end of the project, monthly screening rates greater than 80 % has been sustained for 10 months. As a result of these efforts, twenty-seven (48.2 %) patients with at least mild depressive symptoms were identified while seven (12.5 %) with thoughts of self-harm were referred to appropriate mental health resources.

CONCLUSIONS: Routine formal depression screening is feasible in a busy subspecialty clinic. Using QI methods, rates of formal depression screening among children with c-SLE were increased from an average of 3.3 % per month to a sustained monthly rate of greater than 80 %. Individuals with depressive symptoms and/or thoughts of self-harm were identified and referred to appropriate mental health resources.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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