Increasing mental health referrals to the Tennessee Medical Foundation (TMF) Physician's Health Program led the organization to develop a new mental health resource for use by licensed health professionals across Tennessee. The new Tennessee Professional Screening Questionnaire, or TN PSQ, is an online self-screening tool that was made available statewide last month at tn.providerwellness.org.
TMF and its partnering organizations, including the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, Tennessee Medical Association, Tennessee Hospital Association, and SVMIC, will share the link with their respective communities to help address rising rates of burnout, depression, and suicide among physicians and other licensed medical professionals. A phased rollout through March and April will also share the screening tool with Tennessee's health professional schools, specialty societies, and other healthcare organizations across the state.
"As the number of mental health referrals began to rise, we began searching for helpful resources that would make an impact," said TMF Medical Director Michael Baron, MD. "The goal is to connect more people to the help they need earlier in the process, hopefully before there's a need for intervention by employers, a TMF referral, or licensing board action," he added.
"There are known barriers to getting help for mental health problems among doctors and other licensed health professionals," said TMF Administrator Mike Todd. "Confidentiality and existing stigma over seeking help, fears of career implications, and the perceived time and cost involved are all factors that can stop them from reaching out when they probably need it the most," he said.
TMF is the first Physician's Health Program in the country to utilize the Interactive Screening Program (ISP), an online screening platform created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Working in partnership with the AFSP, TMF has customized the ISP tool for the licensed health professionals it serves in Tennessee, which include physicians (MDs and DOs), physician assistants, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, x-ray technologists, and veterinarians, as well as students, residents, interns, and other trainees for these professions at all levels.
The tool will be used strictly as a non-crisis service, offering an anonymous, confidential online mental health screening that will result in referrals to appropriate mental health resources and optional interaction with a program counselor.
"This tool will be free, totally anonymous, voluntary, and the outcome completely driven by the user," Baron said, adding this should address some of the fears involved in asking for help with mental or emotional illness.
Accessing TN PSQ
The TN PSQ, available at tn.providerwellness.org, is a 35-question, self-screening tool that takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. It is based on the PRIME-MD Patient Health Questionnaire and contains the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).