Computerized screening and intervention: the next frontier of behavioral intervention science Essay

Computerized screening and intervention: the next frontier of behavioral intervention science

            The implementation of the latest technologies is present in almost every aspect of life - Computerized screening and intervention: the next frontier of behavioral intervention science Essay introduction. From construction, to production of the latest automobiles, to the more energy-efficient home appliances, human labor is slowly replaced by more sophisticated and less expensive computerized machinery. The medical field is also not exempt from the technological changes that occur within every branch of human enterprise. Computerized screening and intervention that is slowly being implemented within behavioral science also represents such a technological leap, whose benefits are yet to be fully explored.

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            Computerized screening and intervention within behavioral science is defined as using computers and technologies related to computers, such as various software programs and the Internet through which patient during inpatient and outpatient care can effectively communicate with the medical professionals, therefore giving a clearer picture as to the mental state of the patients. This is especially evident with substance abuse patients, as previous studies have shown that there is certain amount of restraint when stating the amount of substances, as well of the type of substances abused in drug users and alcoholics. Also, it is determined that it is time saving and cost effective, as the average health worker would have to use 4.4 hours a day in screening patients, as well as using various expendable materials. The computerized screening is also more dynamic to previous methods, as it can be provided to various ethnic groups in their native language, eliminating the language barrier that may occur. The computerized screening usually represents a questioner, with a computer interface, and the patients come in no contact with any medical personal during the phase of providing this information. Several researches have been performed in order to determine the effectiveness of this system.

            In a research performed at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, patients filled an electronic intake survey. The questions included standard questions such as date of birth, employment, gender and so on. Then, the patients were asked if the used any substances during their life time, including drugs, alcohol or medications that were not prescribed to them. The patients were then asked when was the last time they used the substance, going into further detail when considering alcohol as to the amount of alcohol used. There was an initial screening of patients through a telephone call, in order to determine whether or not the patients are appropriate to be included in the study, as patients with serious substance abuse shouldn’t be included in experiments with screening, and more traditional methods should be used in order to ensure their successful treatment.

            The computer program consisted of multiple-choice questions, and the patients were given suitable privacy to perform the test. Some patients were assisted that were unable to use the computer, and others that did not wish to use the computer were given a paper version. The patients, which had problems with alcohol, were also given the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test, in order to determine the severity of the alcohol dependency. The test were locked with a password that was provided to the patients for privacy reasons.

            The researchers found that there is extensive use of alcohol and drugs amongst the patients and that screening is essential in providing effective treatment for such patients. They also propose to include motivational interventions to assist other psychiatric systems. They conclude that the computerized screening system is effective, as only few patients agreed to use the computer. It is important to mention that the older patients did not wish to use the computer, most likely because of problems with cognition. This is also mentioned as part of the problem of using computerized screening system, as, according to the researchers, may show higher effectiveness only in the younger population, while the older population would require other, equally effective methods to be found.  Some training of the medical personnel were necessary to insure effective test, as well as to provide the patients with the proper privacy they require2.

            Screening is not the only field of behavioral science that uses the computer as a tool to perform its actions. Interventions, focused towards depressed patients, and other behavioral problems also utilize the computer, as well as other technologies to provide broad and effective care to an ever increasing amount of patients . To that that effect, in order to determine the effectiveness of such programs, a study was performed with the focus to obtain the feedback of patients as to their opinion of the computerized intervention program. The patients stated that they approved of such intervention program, which is focused on lifestyle change. Some subjects believed that this influenced the information that was presented to them, but generally, the question and answer format, voices, and the instant feedback were considered positive effects of the computerized intervention program1.

            The effectiveness of the computerized intervention and screening program is clearly effective, and well accepted by most of the patients with behavioral problems. While this is still relatively new method of performing screening and intervention, still its shows extensive promise to minimize the cost and time used to provide help to patients, therefore increasing the amount of patients that can be covered, and allowing medical professionals to focus on treatments, rather than collecting the vital data necessary for treatment.


Holmes, John H., Ohr, Elizabeth Ellis and Judy A. Shea. ” Patient Preferences for Behavioral Intervention Format: The Case for (and Against) Computerization”. Annual Symposium Proceedings Archive, 2005: 983.
Satre, Derek, Wolfe, William et al. “Computerized Screening for Alcohol and Drug Use Among Adults Seeking Outpatient Psychiatric Services”. Psychiatric Services, April 2008, 59: 441-444.


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