With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, treatment providers have been struggling with strategies for doing an initial assessment and intakes while minimizing exposures for both patients and staff. There are several strategies that can be used to do assessments at least partially remotely.
Brief screens, such as the free UNCOPE, or triage tools, such as the TAAD-5, could be done over the phone as a means of a preliminary consideration of whether it would be appropriate for an individual to present for an intake. Someone with close knowledge of the individual of concern could answer most of the questions in the aforementioned screens and triage tools. In such cases, an intervention might be required if the individual of concern cannot be persuaded to present for a formal assessment.
A properly structured formal assessment could be done via the various virtual meeting platforms, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. The advantage of the virtual platforms is that the clinician or interviewer can verify that the person in question is actually responding to the questions. A structured interview, such as the CAAPE-5 for adults or PADDI-5 for adolescents could be administered be either a clinician or trained technician. The technician is possible with the online versions because the system presents the items on the screen of a computer or tablet, as they should be asked along with the possible responses. A clinician could use any structured interview or standard intake format for the initial assessment using virtual platforms.
An onsite assessment can minimize direct contact even when a potential patient presents at the treatment program. For example, the online CAAPE-5 has a function that allows the patient to directly interact with the program once the interview is set up on a tablet. At that point, the staff person could hand the tablet to the patient to respond to the items. After the last item is answered, the system locks, and the patient can hand the tablet back to the staff person, who can wipe the tablet down with a disinfectant. Upon entering a code and adding any desired comments, the report of findings can be downloaded as a pdf file and printed out.
In any event, there are a variety of tools and strategies that could be used to conduct initial interviews and diagnostic assessments while minimizing the possibility of spreading COVID-19. Even in the absence of a pandemic, some of these strategies could make initial contact with a treatment provider efficient and easy. The online versions of the assessment instruments mentioned here can be found at Evince Diagnostics, and paper versions are available from The Change Companies.