A new paper suggests the Web can be used to accurately assess the effectiveness of depression treatments.

In the document, investigators from Rhode Island Hospital report that Web-based assessments for outcome measurements of patients in treatment for depression are valid and reliable.

The finding is important because it indicates that the Internet version of the depression scale is equivalent to the paper version. Moreover, patients reported that they preferred the Internet version, such as the Depression Screening Test.

Lead author Mark Zimmerman, M.D., and his colleagues studied 53 psychiatric patients receiving ongoing outpatient treatment for depression. Patients were given a questionnaire in both paper and online form.

By having patients respond to both versions of the questionnaire, the research team was able to compare the validity of the results, while also asking open-ended questions of the patients to determine which form they preferred.

Zimmerman says, “With the 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.”

Investigators discovered the consistency of paper and Internet administration of the questionnaire was high. They also found that patients preferred to complete the scale on the Internet.

Patients reported that the Internet assessment was less burdensome, less time consuming and more secure.

Zimmerman reports, “Web-based administration of outcome assessments offers several potential advantages over paper-and-pencil assessments. 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.”

In conclusion, researchers believe the results of the study show that Internet administration of outcomes measures for depression are reliable and valid.

Zimmerman concludes, “We believe that a Web-based system for measuring outcome can enhance capabilities for longitudinal tracking of the course of this often chronic disorder.

“Another advantage is that it provides an inexpensive method for data aggregation, and patients prefer it.” The Depression Screening Test is one such online depression assessment measure.

The paper is published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Source: Lifespan