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Psychiatr Serv. 2005 Sep;56(9):1098-103.

Effect of structured interviews on evaluation time in pediatric community mental health settings.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5232 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine whether a structured interview administered by a master's-level clinician and reported to physicians before an initial evaluation would reduce physicians' evaluation time without compromising diagnostic accuracy or clinical outcomes in a pediatric sample.


A sample of 225 children and adolescents who were seen in public-sector community facilities was randomly assigned either to receive a structured interview (the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-aged Children-Present and Lifetime Versions) by a trained interviewer before the initial physician visit or to receive assessment as usual. Clinical outcome data were collected prospectively, with follow-up at four months.


Physicians' evaluation time was reduced by approximately half among physicians who were given preliminary diagnostic information. Physicians' diagnoses were strongly related to the results of the structured interview. Physicians' having access to previously obtained diagnostic information was associated with better psychosocial functioning at follow-up in terms of peer relations and spare-time activities compared with assessment as usual.


Adding a trained diagnostic interviewer to the clinical team could reduce physicians' initial diagnostic evaluation time and improve diagnostic reliability and psychosocial outcomes.

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