This article was originally published here
BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2021 Apr 21;6(1):e000640. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2020-000640. eCollection 2021.
OBJECTIVE: Knowledge of a patient’s emotional health status and using patient-centred communication may be key to providing early intervention and referral to appropriate treatment/support services for ophthalmology patients. This study aims to determine if and how ophthalmologists use anxiety and depression scores to determine clinical care of patients with chronic eye disease.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This cross-sectional study included 10 ophthalmologists and a convenience sample of 100 of their patients (>18 years). The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) for depression and the Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) tool were administered to patients. Scores from these instruments were provided to ophthalmologists just prior to the clinic visit. After the visit, ophthalmologists were given a questionnaire to assess self-reported change in clinical practice and whether knowledge of scores impacted their communication style, treatment plan and follow-up protocol.
RESULTS: Of these patients (mean age=63), 27% reported mild-moderate anxiety or depression as their worst score, while 2% reported suicidal thoughts; 20% reported neither anxiety nor depression. Ophthalmologists’ response to patients with mild or worse anxiety or depression was to change clinical approach (28%) and communication style (31%), both metrics increasing with severity of symptoms (Fisher’s exact p<0.05). None reported changing their choice of treatment or modifying follow-up protocols; referral to social work/psychiatry services was 60%, 3.7% and 0% for patients with moderately severe or worse, mild-to-moderate, or minimal scores, respectively.
CONCLUSION: Providing ophthalmologists with knowledge of the emotional health of their patients may change the clinical approach and referral pattern.