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Br J Cancer. 2001 Dec 14;85(12):1842-9.

Validating automated screening for psychological distress by means of computer touchscreens for use in routine oncology practice.

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Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Medical Oncology Unit, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, UK.


The aim of the study was to confirm the validity of using touchscreen computers for screening for clinically significant levels of distress among cancer patients in routine oncology practice. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), EORTC Quality of Life questionnaire (QLQ-C30), Mental Health Inventory-MHI5 and a Concerns Checklist were administered via touchscreen computer to 172 chemotherapy out-patients, twice, 2-4 weeks apart. A standard psychiatric interview (Present State Examination - PSE) was conducted within a week of the second assessment. On interview, 23% of patients were identified as 'cases'. Using the available data (questionnaires, sociodemographic details, self-reported past psychiatric history), the best screening strategy combined scores from MHI-5 and HADS from a single time-point with the following rules: if MHI-5 < 11 = non-case; if MHI-5 > or = 11 then use HADS; then, if HADS > or = 9 = 'case' (sensitivity 85%; specificity 71%; misclassification rate 26%; positive predictive value 47%). The computerized screening system enabled data to be collected, scored, collated and reported in real time to identify patients who warrant further clinical assessment. It offers the potential for improving 'case' detection in routine oncology practice while reducing the burden of questions put to 'non-cases'. Further work is needed to develop optimal choice of screening questions for this purpose.

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