Can a new computer program conduct psychiatric evaluations as well as trainedclinicians? Some psychologists say yes--and add that the computer may even catch problems human interviewers miss.
The IVR-PRIME-MD, as the new diagnostic tool is known, is administered by computer and accessed by telephone; callers respond to a series of questions by pushing buttons. Creator Kenneth Kobak, Ph.D., reports that computer and clinician interviews identified similar rates of psychiatric disorders, and that the computer registered higher levels of alcohol abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)--perhaps because patients were uncomfortable admitting such behaviors to another person. It picked up fewer incidences of panic disorder, however, and Kobak, of the Dean Foundation for Health, in Wisconsin, says that the anxiety part of the test may require further tinkering.