Structured Interview and Uniform Assessment Improves Diagnostic Reliability

Carroll W. Hughes, Jeanne Rintelmann, Taryn Mayes, Graham J. Emslie, Glen Pearson, A. John Rush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare a Childhood Uniform Assessment Package (CUAP), including a computerized structured diagnosis, with routine assessment and treatment in public mental health settings. Data Sources/Study Settings: Data was collected prospectively on 250 children and adolescents in both public mental health inpatient and outpatient settings in a large metropolitan area and a rural area. Study Design: Subjects were randomized to either routine assessment and treatment as usual (ATU) or ATU plus an additional 'gold standard' assessment battery Childhood Uniform Assessment Package (CUAP). Outcome measures were taken at admission (baseline), discharge, and again 6 months later. Methods: The study was conducted at a State Hospital (CUAP, n = 75; ATU, n = 75) and a Community Mental Health center (CUAP, n = 50; ATU, n = 50). The 'gold standard' diagnostic process was established at the Children's Medical Center - Dallas. Research focused on a comparison of the CUAP diagnostic process to the existing diagnostic process (ATU) and the service delivery system of an inpatient and outpatient public sector clinical treatment setting. Principal Findings: A bachelor's level individual can be trained to administer a highly reliable diagnostic battery to meet a 'gold standard,' suggesting a possible cost-effective way to assist in diagnostic evaluations. Higher reliability was found between this standardized assessment package (CUAP) and inpatient physicians than for outpatient physicians. The highest interrater reliabilities were found for attention deficit and substance abuse disorders, less so for the other behavior disorders. The use of CUAP results in more reliable diagnoses in public settings than those provided by typical clinical staff by identifying mood and anxiety disorders (disorders with the lowest reliability) with better reliability. The addition of 'gold standard' diagnostic assessments (CUAP) did not appear to affect length of stay, number of medication changes, use of seclusion or restraints, and other behavioral interventions in the inpatient setting. Outpatient follow-up services did not differ for CUAP versus ATU either. Conclusions: A standard uniform assessment package that includes a structured diagnostic instrument can improve overall diagnostic reliability but may not have a significant overall impact in clinical treatment strategies or outcomes without additional intervention to assure proper use of the information. A well-trained bachelor's level assistant can administer such a battery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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