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Clinician Guidance App Designed for Depression

Columbia Psychiatry Pathways app

Columbia Psychiatry Pathways app (avoMD)

22 Oct. 2021. Neuroscientists and a software company designed a smartphone app to help front-line professionals diagnose and start treatment for patients with depression. The Columbia Psychiatry Pathways app, released this week, is developed by researchers at Columbia University medical school and the clinical decision-support software company avoMD, both in New York.

Columbia Psychiatry Pathways aims to assist medical professionals like primary care physicians and nurse practitioners when confronted with patients exhibiting symptoms of depression. Depression is a widespread condition, which when it becomes persistent or severe, is called major depression, and can interfere with normal family and work life, and lead to disability or suicide. National Institute of Mental Health estimates in 2019, 19.4 million adults in the U.S., or 7.8 percent of the adult population, suffered a major depressive episode in the previous 12 months.

The Columbia Psychiatry Pathways app contains algorithms representing the latest treatment guidelines for depression, compiled by Columbia’s John Mann, professor of neuroscience, and Ravi Shah, chief innovation officer in the university’s psychiatry department. The software captures a patient’s symptoms, evaluated with built-in rating scales and algorithms that guide the clinician’s decisions. The app also has assessments for bipolar disorder and suicide risk, as well as details of seven approved and well-tolerated generic medications for depression.

Provides options for next steps and referrals

Data entered by clinicians are evaluated by the app, which provides options for next steps and referrals. “This app is designed to help clinicians treat depression more effectively,” says Mann in a university statement. “It also helps them monitor the patient response and when a referral may be indicated.”

The Columbia Psychiatry Pathways app is free and available in Apple/iOS and Android, as well as desktop versions. The university’s collaborator avoMD develops decision-support software for medical professionals, particular for clinical decision-making. The company says its software provides updated treatment guidelines for medical decisions at the point of care, replacing static and inaccessible documents and flowcharts.

“Scientific papers and clinical guidelines are constantly evolving. It’s difficult for health care providers to stay up to date,” notes Shah. “This app combines the world-class expertise of Columbia Psychiatry with avoMD’s next-generation decision support technology to put the latest scientific knowledge in the hands of clinicians, serving as an interactive playbook to treat depression quickly and effectively.”

Early identification of patients with depression by first-line medical professionals can sharply reduce suicides, according to a review of research by Mann and colleagues published earlier this year. Their review shows routine screening for depression has generally not reduced suicide rates in the U.S. The exception, however, is training primary care physicians to recognize depression and prescribe medications, which can cut the rate by up to half.

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