eCHAT effective for lifestyle, mental health screening

Using iPads, a Web-based electronic Case-Finding and Help Assessment Tool (eCHAT) is an "acceptable and feasible" means of screening patients for unhealthy behaviors and negative mood states and is easily integrated into the primary care electronic health record, finds a study in the Annals of Family Medicine.

"Early detection and management of unhealthy behaviors and mental health issues in primary care has the potential to prevent or ameliorate many chronic diseases and increase patients' well-being," study authors wrote. "This study aimed to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the systematic use of a Web-based eCHAT screening patients for problematic drinking, smoking, and other drug use, gambling, exposure to abuse, anxiety, depression, anger control, and physical inactivity, and whether they want help with these issues."

In the study of 233 patients in New Zealand, patients self-administered eCHAT on an iPad in the waiting room and received summarized results, including relevant scores and interpretations, "which could be by a family physician on the website and in the electronic health record (EHR) at the point of care," according to the article. Patients completed the eCHAT and doctors accessed the summarized reports. The outcome measures were patients' responses to eCHAT, and patients' written and staff recorded interview feedback.

Most patients in the study found the iPad easy to use, and the questions easy to understand and appropriate. In addition, they did not object to questions. Moreover, the feedback from doctors, practice managers, nurses, and receptionists at two general practices in Auckland, New Zealand was generally positive.

Of the 233 adult patients, 84 percent completed eCHAT and received feedback. 

The article's authors concluded that there is support in North America for such a tool. "A recent U.S. study identified support by stakeholders, including primary health care clinicians and patients of patient-reported data reflecting health behaviors and psychosocial issues being included in the EHR," according to the article.

In related news, the Department of Defense recently added new features to its smartphone application designed to monitor a soldier's long-term emotional health. The mobile app, called the T2 Mood Tracker, now enables users to send their personal information to their home computers and to share it with their healthcare providers.

The app, which is used in conjunction with therapy, records a range of emotions for anxiety, depression, head injury, stress, post-traumatic stress and a user's general well-being. The data, which is saved in a graphical or spreadsheet format, is then transferred via e-mail or other wireless connection to a patient's therapist.

To learn more:
- read the study