Featured Practice: Southern Pain Associates — Depression Screenings and Behavioral Health Referrals

As we come to the close of the formal TCPI time, we are happy to spotlight a practice that has successfully transitioned to a Merit Based Incentive Payment System: Southern Pain Associates. Of the many transformation changes this practice has initiated, one success has been increasing the percentage of patients who receive depression screenings and referrals— a very important area for this patient population.  

Southern Pain Associates is a single-specialty ambulatory surgery center and clinic with three locations in Mississippi. They have proudly provided pain management and treatment for more than 20 years, and believe informed and engaged patients are the key to patient empowerment and collaborative decision making.    

Chronic pain and depression are linked. Individuals suffering from chronic pain are more likely to have depressive symptoms, and depression can exacerbate a number of adverse health events and conditions, including severity and management of pain. It is important to intervene and reduce risks associated with co-occurring pain and depression. The practice addressed this by systematically administering screenings and strengthening relationships in the medical neighborhood. TCPI assisted in training staff to screen for depression and building it into the clinical workflow and EHR. Next, the practice initiated interdisciplinary monthly team meetings, including representatives from their local behavioral health group. The meetings allow for regular communication, referrals, and collaborative approaches to care management for these high risk patients. 

At baseline, depression screenings were only occurring about 6% of the time. After training staff on administering screenings, that number has steadily rose, peaking at 75%. This improvement and emphasis on patient referrals to behavioral health providers is making a difference in providing optimal patient pain and care management. You can read more about Southern Pain Associates here.  

The future of healthcare will require comprehensive and collaborative delivery of services. Practices will be expected to address the full range of patient needs, and create procedures that result in positive patient outcomes. Southern Pain Associates exceeds the national benchmarks for depression screenings and models the mindset needed to achieve results. We invite you to listen to Episode 21 of the MidSouth PTN “Best Practices” podcast to learn more about the Merit Based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS, and the exciting environment we have been working so hard to thrive in.   


The views expressed in this story are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of Southern Pain Associates.Additionally, this work was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, under grant number 1CMS331549-03-00. The contents provided are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HHS or any of its agencies.