For mental health professionals, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is the most well-known and most effective tool for understanding a patient’s general mental health state. It’s an important type of test that are essential for psychiatric health providers to give the best quality care for patients.

PHQ-9 forms, as well as all psychiatric care notes, are considered protected health information (PHI) and must be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). When storing PHQ-9 forms, certain privacy and security controls need to be utilized, whether these notes are physical or digital.

What is a PHQ-9 form?

PHQ-9 is a short-form questionnaire that consists of nine key questions from the much longer Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD). Its purpose is to help diagnose depression and determine the severity of depression. It is one of several tests primary care providers and psychiatrists use to determine a patient’s condition and the best course of treatment. It uses a simple scoring system that allows providers to quickly identify the level of severity of depression. 

The questions ask the patient to identify the approximate number of days they’ve experienced certain symptoms and feelings. The answers are scored from zero (for none) to three (for everyday). Health care providers then simply add up the total score to determine the level of severity, starting from none/minimal to severe. 

The PHQ-9 test is universally accepted as an accurate and efficient way to determine a patient’s level of depression, since the symptoms of depression can only be determined with subjective analysis of a patient’s retelling of their symptoms. 

How to administer a PHQ-9 form

PHQ-9 is a simple questionnaire that can be self-administered by the patient. This preferably takes place before an office visit so the provider can know the patient’s level of depression when starting out the examination. The questionnaires can also be administered audibly during the examination, with the practitioner filling out the form themselves. Questionnaires can be administered with a physical examination form, or as a digital record. 

How does eFileCabinet make your PHQ-9 forms more dynamic?

Secure document management software has the potential to drastically improve the patient-provider relationship and the patient experience. With eFileCabinet, you can securely send a patient the PHQ-9 to be filled out, long before the scheduled visit. Rather than having to sit in the lobby filling out a form on a clipboard, they can just submit it to you the night before. This is done with secure file-sharing, ensuring that records stay private between you and your patients.  Digital health records need to be stored and transferred with a level of encryption, and eFileCabinet utilizes bank-level encryption (256-bit AES and SSL/TLS).

Patients can then send their filled out PHQ-9 directly to you privately, securely, and routed directly to their folder in your system. Set email notifications so you know exactly when the patient uploads the document. 

Patient folders can be protected with role-based permissions, so even if you have other staff that uses the system, only you can have access to your patient’s PHI.

Finally, since PHQ-9 usually consists of checkbox forms, it’s fairly easy to set up profile data that can then be used to craft workflows. Depending on the score of the PHQ-9, it’s possible that you create automated workflows to perform certain actions, for example, letting you know right away if there’s the potential for a serious case and routing all the necessary documents to the patient’s folder immediately. 

eFileCabinet gives mental health professionals the freedom to stop fussing around with paperwork and put more focus in to providing care for their patients. Security and compliance can be handled with ease, giving you and your patients peace of mind when it comes to shielding their privacy.