Computer-aided assessment is an innovation whose time has come. This chapter looks at benefits of and barriers to adoption of such assessments, types of assessments and clinical interviews now available, a few of the Web applications and the development of guidelines for their use, electronic diaries, and interactive voice response systems. Finally, we outline developments in the increasingly important area of decision-support software. We begin by familiarizing the reader with some benefits of and barriers to computer-aided assessment.
The earliest computer programs for assessment and therapeutic support through selfhelp involved a single large mainframe computer serving one client at a time. The Internet now has the capability of distributing such services anywhere, anytime, and to anyone with access to a computer and modem, expanding use and encouraging development of increasingly sophisticated psychotechnologies. Old-style programs merely processed a set of data and emitted a report. New programs are interactive, responding to what a user does, awaiting further input, and responding flexibly. Both types of programs have spread to Web sites that offer analysis of personal health risk factors, self-diagnostic questionnaires, and self-care training. The Internet has developed rapidly, and enthusiasm for mental health information has surged. Furthermore, as discussed in chapter 1, the employee assistance market has been rewarded by financial profit and has grown rapidly. The mental health professional may need to be familiar with such services, their underlying concepts, and how they can influence and supplement patient treatment.
Practice today is being driven by the increasing complexity of mental health treatments, advances in research and technology, requirements for documentation of services and demands for greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Figure 6.1 illustrates the pressures these factors cause and the resulting development of behavioral health care technology.
Computerization is seen as a possible and viable solution to (as well as a possible cause of) these increasing demands. Beyond self-help, technology is improving direct care by mental health practitioners. The increasing requirements for documentation