Assessing the impact of a web-based comprehensive somatic and mental health screening tool in pediatric primary care

Acad Pediatr. 2013 Jul-Aug;13(4):340-7. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2013.04.005.


Objective: To evaluate how parents and physicians perceive the utility of a comprehensive, electronic previsit screener, and to assess its impact on the visit.

Methods: A mixed methods design was used. English-speaking parents were recruited from 3 primary care systems (urban MD and rural NY and VT) when they presented for a well-child visit with a child 4 to 10 years of age. Parents completed an electronic previsit screen, which included somatic concerns, health risks, and 4 mental health tools (SCARED5, PHQ-2, SDQ Impact, and PSC-17). Parents completed an exit survey, and a subset were interviewed. All primary care providers (PCPs) were interviewed.

Results: A total of 120 parents and 16 PCPs participated. The exit surveys showed that nearly 90% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that the screener was easy to use and maintained confidentiality. During interviews, parents noted that the screener helped with recall, validated concerns, reframed issues they thought might not be appropriate for primary care, and raised new questions. PCPs thought that the screener enabled them to normalize sensitive issues, and it permitted them to simultaneously focus and be comprehensive during the visit. Parents and PCPs agreed that the screener helped guide discussion, promoted in-depth exchange, and increased efficiency. Findings were consistent across quantitative and qualitative methods and between parents and PCPs.

Conclusions: A comprehensive electronic previsit screening tool is an acceptable and practical strategy to facilitate well-child visits. It may help with problem identification as well as with setting agendas, engaging the family, and balancing attention between somatic and psychosocial concerns.

Keywords: child mental health; doctor–patient communication; patient engagement; screening; well-child visit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Mass Screening / instrumentation
  • Mental Health*
  • Parents*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires