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Original Research

Web-Based Assessment of Depression in Patients Treated in Clinical Practice: Reliability, Validity, and Patient Acceptance

Mark Zimmerman, MD, and Jennifer H. Martinez, BA

Published: November 1, 2011

Article Abstract

Objective: Calls for the use of standardized assessments in clinical practice have been increasing. A Web-based administration of outcome assessments offers several potential advantages over paper-and-pencil assessments, such as patient convenience, reduced missing data, reduced costs, automatic scoring, and generation of large databases. The present study from the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessments and Services (MIDAS) project evaluated the acceptability, reliability, and validity of a Web-based administration of a depression scale in patients receiving ongoing care for depression.

Method: From June 2009 to July 2010, fifty-three depressed outpatients completed a Web-based and a paper version of the Clinically Useful Depression Outcome Scale (CUDOS). The vast majority of patients met DSM-IV criteria for either major depressive disorder (n = 36) or bipolar disorder (n = 9). Patients were also asked to complete a brief 6-question survey of the acceptability of the 2 modes of scale administration. At the time of the visit, the patients’ psychiatrist completed the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and rated patients on the Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness (CGI-S) scale and Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF).

Results: The correlation between the Web-administered and paper versions of the CUDOS was high (P < .001). The mean scores were similar on the paper and Internet administrations. The internal consistency of the paper and Internet administrations of the CUDOS was high (both values, Cronbach α = .93), and all item-scale correlations for the paper and Internet versions were significant (median for paper administration = 0.76; median for Internet administration = 0.74). The paper and Internet versions of the CUDOS were equally correlated with clinicians’ ratings on the MADRS, CGI-S, and GAF (all P values < .001). Patients reported high levels of satisfaction with Internet administration and preferred this method of monitoring outcome to paper administration in the office (all P values < .001).

Conclusions: The results of this first study of the use of a Web-based system of monitoring outcome in routine clinical practice supported the reliability and validity of Internet administration of a depression scale, and patients clearly preferred Internet administration to completion of a paper-and-pencil questionnaire in the office.

J Clin Psychiatry 2012; 73(3): 320-326

Submitted: August 23, 2010; accepted February 18, 2011.

Online ahead of print: November 1, 2011 (doi:10.4088/JCP.10m06519).

Corresponding author: Mark Zimmerman, MD, Bayside Medical Center, 235 Plain St, Providence, RI 02905 (

Volume: 72

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