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Online mental health assessment is reliable

on a laptop

The web works. A new published paper indicates that the Internet version of the depression scale, in other words an interactive assessment of mental health, was equivalent to the paper version of the assessment and in some ways preferable, especially by patients. The Rhode Island Hospital reports that Web-based assessments of patients in treatment for depression are valid and reliable.

Mark Zimmerman, MD, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, and his colleagues studied 53 patients receiving ongoing outpatient care for depression. They were given a paper questionnaire and a similar online version. The questionnaire is a brief measurement tool that can be quickly scored and is considered clinically reliable. The team assessed the written and online responses and found they were almost identical.

“With growing interest in developing electronic medical records, together with the increased pressure to adopt measurement-based care in clinical practice, the time is right to develop a Web-based system to monitor depression in clinical practice,” said Zimmerman.

So that’s what he has done. Outcometracker.org is a site written and designed by Zimmerman which allows unlimited use of measurement scales, improved detection of symptoms, remission tracking, detecting seasonal patterns with longitudinal monitoring, ability to detect influence of menstrual cycle and graphic displays of analysis as well as a multitude of ways to view the data. Mental health practitioners can look at individual patients or their entire case load. It’s an extremely versatile tool for helping the doctor and the patient.

“Web-based administration of outcome assessments offers several potential advantages over paper-and-pencil assessment. They are convenient for patients, there is a reduced cost associated with them, they can be scored automatically and data can easily be aggregated. Also, computerized questionnaires can also prompt patients to answer all questions, thereby reducing missing data,” explained Zimmerman.

The website is available here, www.outcometracker.org.

Source: ScienceDaily, OutcomeTracker.org

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