Technology — 01 March 2013

An Australian-developed online mood disorders diagnostic tool can elicit vital information from patients and encourage disclosure of symptoms, according to analysis of data from 16,000 users.

An audit of reports generated by the Mood Assessment Program (MAP), introduced by the Black Dog Institute in 2007, shows 85% of patients who completed the online questionnaire have significantly depressed mood.

The tool includes questions about life stressors, previous treatments and personality.

Rozelle GP Dr Sarah Weaver, who has used the MAP since it was introduced in 2007, said patients liked it because it gave them a chance to think about things that were relevant to their diagnosis that they might not have considered important.

“When patients first come in, it’s often a jumbled-up story,” Dr Weaver said.

“Some of them have been to mental health professionals before and they have got this complicated story.”

She said using the MAP also saved time.

“It’s information gathering for me – wider than I could have time for, perhaps – that I can do in the practice, but we will take it in conjunction with seeing them, with my clinical judgement.”

Professor Gordon Parker, from the School of Psychiatry at the University of NSW, said the MAP report algorithm, which is sent directly to a GP as soon as it is completed, was 80% accurate in diagnosing mood disorders.

Professor Parker said the advantage of the program was the breadth of data it gave the practitioner, and the time it saved them, particularly GPs.

“Really it’s providing a very rich set of information for the practitioner to say, now I have that information, that should tell me what type of depression this person has,” he said.

Dr Weaver said MAP was particularly useful for diagnosing bipolar disorder, and patients liked it because they felt they were being taken seriously.

The study showed 70% of patients who had used MAP judged that it successfully covered the majority of issues relating to their disorder, though 10–15% of patients across all age groups found MAP ‘quite’ or ‘very difficult’ to use.

MAP is free and available nationally, and GPs issue patients with a referral code to complete it online.

As first appeared in Medical Observer, 1 March 2013. Source: Australasian Psychiatry 2013; online 25 Feb


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