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Screening for psychological distress in palliative care : performance of touch screen questionnaires compared with semistructured psychiatric interview.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2009
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number4
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)597-605
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study examined the criterion validity of computer-based screening tools (Distress Thermometer [DT], Brief Symptom Inventory-18 [BSI-18], and General Health Questionnaire-12 [GHQ-12]) in detecting any form of psychological distress in palliative care patients, compared with a semistructured psychiatric interview, Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN). Patients aged 18 years or older referred to specialist palliative care services in Leeds completed the computer-based screening tools before SCAN interview by psychiatrists who were blind to screening results. SCAN interviews generated International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) psychiatric diagnoses. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis compared the performance of screening tools with SCAN interview in identifying cases of distress. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and area under the curve (AUC) were calculated. Of the 226 eligible patients during the study period, 174 consented and 150 completed the study. Fifty-one (34%) patients satisfied ICD-10 criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis, adjustment disorder being the most common one (22%). On ROC analysis, DT, BSI-18, and GHQ-12 showed an AUC of 0.729, 0.729, and 0.755, respectively. At optimum cutoff values, sensitivity and specificity were 0.77 and 0.59 for DT, 0.78 and 0.62 for BSI-18, and 0.77 and 0.61 for GHQ-12, respectively. These data indicate that more than one-third of palliative care patients experience psychological distress. The three touch screen-based screening tools performed equally well in identifying distress compared with a psychiatric interview. The single-item DT is as good as longer screening tools, with an optimum cutoff of 5 in this population. Depressive disorders may be rarer in this population than commonly thought, in comparison to adjustment disorders.