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Research from Daphna Harel Finds Depression Assessments Reliable Across Technology, Setting, and Type


The study compares different modalities including online, pen-and-paper, in-person interview, and by phone.

With the rise of telehealth in recent years, many patients are able to receive diagnoses and treatments without an office visit to a doctor or therapist. A new study finds that when assessing depression symptoms, electronic forms and phone interviews are as reliable as in-person assessments.

“This study shows that patients and clinicians can choose the mode of administration for a depression assessment tool that works best for them, and they don’t have to worry that choice is influencing the results,” says lead author Daphna Harel, associate professor of applied statistics at NYU Steinhardt and director of the Applied Statistics for Social Science Research (A3SR) MS program.

Using databases from the DEPRESsion Screening Data Project, researchers from New York University and McGill University evaluated data for over 60,000 people who completed one of three depression assessment tools – the Patient Health Questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, or the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

Picture of Daphna Harel

Everyone deserves to get the best care possible. Being able to assess depression symptoms in ways that fit each person allows for more individualized healthcare.

Daphna Harel, Associate Professor of Applied Statistics

They compared scores for these tools by the technology used (pen-and-paper, electronic form, or phone); setting (medical or research versus private settings such as home); and whether the questions were read aloud to clients in an interview or the assessment was self-administered.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, indicated that any differences observed in scores used to assess depression across different modalities were negligible, if present at all.

“Everyone deserves to get the best care possible. Being able to assess depression symptoms in ways that fit each person allows for more individualized health care,” Harel.

The research was supported in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the New Frontiers in Research Fund.

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