Decision support tools

Standardized methods for assessing individual needs have been developed in order to foster more systematic approaches to data collection and, in some cases, to provide screening tools which patients can self-administer to ascertain probable need.

Several well-tested self-administered paper-and-pencil screening instruments, that are also easily adapted for computer-based self-administration, are available for establishing probable need. Probable need is sometimes referred to as 'caseness'. One of the best examples of an instrument for determining caseness is the General Health Questionnaire.(14) This tool was developed for use in primary care. It takes only a few minutes for a patient to complete. A score above a certain cut-off establishes the likelihood that the person represents a 'case' of psychiatric disorder and needs further evaluation. It does not establish a diagnosis, nor does it specify treatment needs. This instrument has subsequently been used in a wide variety of settings, notably in epidemiological surveys, as a non-specific measure of psychiatric disorder and for further evaluation of needs.

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