For the millions of Americans grappling with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder, the documented accuracy of the M-3 Symptom Checklist (available on-line at www.mymoodmonitor.com) is a major breakthrough for mental health care, according to the researchers from the University of North Carolina, Weill Medical College at Cornell University and the Boston University School of Medicine who conducted the study.
“The M-3 offers a quick and accurate way to determine whether a person might have one of these four common psychiatric conditions. It also provides a clear and concise printed report detailing the results of the test, which can be shared and discussed with a person’s family doctor or a mental health professional” says Larry Culpepper, MD, MPH, Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and a co-author of the study.
“For the one-in-five Americans who have one of these diagnosable and treatable illnesses, the M-3 screener represents a major breakthrough by offering an easy-to-fill-out questionnaire that allows people to identify what’s wrong with them, so they can get the help they need,” says the article’s lead author, Bradley N. Gaynes, MD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina.
The M-3 also screens for suicide risk and substance abuse, warning users who might be at risk for these and other conditions and urging that follow-up steps be taken.
The M-3 Checklist is free, private and simple to use, and does not require any personal information to be divulged. It can be taken online, and soon will be available on mobile devices. After beginning treatment, patients can monitor their progress by retaking the test at regular intervals on Microsoft’s HealthVault, which ensures the results remain private.
And the M-3, which was independently funded and developed, is particularly timely: hospitals, doctors, and patients are preparing to use electronic medical records (EMR) systems to document all health care interactions and the M-3 is the first validated application to use EMR technology for mental health care. The recent Obama Administration economic stimulus package includes more than $20 billion in funding for the development of a nationwide electronic health records exchange over the next four years.
According to the most recent estimate from the National Institute of Mental Health, the annual economic impact of untreated mood disorders is more than $70 billion. For sufferers of depression and anxiety, lack of treatment can lead to reduced productivity or job loss, strain on personal relationships, and in some cases, can trigger drug use and/or suicide. Unlike other health issues, the very onset of depression and anxiety symptoms can hinder efforts to seek help, and many sufferers are held back by shame or lethargy.
According to the study: “The M-3 is a valid, efficient, and feasible tool for screening common psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder and PTSD, in primary care. Its diagnostic accuracy equals that of presently used single-disorder screens but with the additional benefit of being combined into a one-page tool. The M-3 potentially can reduce missed psychiatric diagnoses and facilitate proper treatment of identified cases.”
The Annals study is based on the responses of 647 patients at the University of North Carolina Family Practice Medicine Clinic. Each subject filled out the 27-question M-3 checklist and then participated in a follow-up interview with a clinician who had no access to the results of the screener. The M-3 was effective in screening for any mood or anxiety disorder 83% of the time and for a specific disorder in 76% of cases.
The study was conducted by Bradley N. Gaynes, MD, MPH, Joanne De-Veaugh-Geiss, LPA, and Hongbin Gu, PhD, all of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry; David R. Rubinow, professor and chairman of psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine; Sam Weir, MD, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine; Cora MacPherson, PhD, Social & Scientific Systems; Herbert C. Schulberg, PhD, M.S.Hyg., Weill Cornell Medical College; and Larry Culpepper, MD, MPH, professor and chairman of family medicine, Boston University and chief of family medicine, Boston Medical Center.
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