FRIDAY, March 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) — More patients with sensitive concerns were identified after implementation of a self-administered screening with a tablet-based app in primary care practices, according to a research letter published online March 8 in JAMA Network Open.

David P. Miller Jr., M.D., from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and colleagues evaluated data from six participating practices (three family medicine and three internal medicine; including 23,026 patients) to determine if more patients with depression, fall risk, or intimate partner violence were identified in the 60 days after the mPATH app was launched versus 60 days before, when nursing staff were asking the same screening questions verbally.

The researchers found that use of the app varied from 10.3 to 60.5 percent across the six clinics, due to differences in how often front desk staff handed the tablet to patients. More than twice as many patients screened positive after the app was launched, even with suboptimal uptake of the tablet app. For all screening domains, there were significant increases across all clinics, including for patients who reported thoughts of self-harm, injurious falls, or “that conflicts sometimes turn into physical fights.” This association remained unchanged after accounting for patient characteristics (adjusted odds ratio, 2.6).

“We think using an iPad provides more privacy for patients and gives us more accurate health information than when nurses verbally do the screening as part of the check-in process for clinic visits,” Miller said in a statement. “It also saves nursing staff time since they don’t have to ask the questions while checking a patient’s vitals and updating their medical information.”

Two study authors coinvented and have ownership interest in the mPATH app.

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