Touch-Screen Survey Works Well for Back Pain Patients

Computer-based questionnaire performs well versus paper form, gets rid of missing values
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Using a touch-screen, computer-based questionnaire to elicit information from patients with back problems generates data very similar to those produced by paper questionnaires -- with higher values for mental health questions -- and virtually eliminates missing values, according to a study in the March 15 issue of Spine.

Karin Frennered, M.D., and colleagues at Sahlgren University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden, conducted a study of 79 patients with back problems who completed a mailed questionnaire regarding background, pain, function, quality of life, and depressive symptoms three weeks before their consultation, and then answered the same questions on a computer touch-screen during their visit.

The researchers found that the two information-collection systems generated very similar scores for the quality of life, function, depression and physical dimensions of the Short-Form 36 (SF-36). However, recorded scores for the mental components of the SF-36 survey were slightly higher with the touch-screen than the paper method. In addition, missing values with the touch-screen method were 0 percent, compared to 2.9 percent for the paper questionnaire, the investigators discovered.

"The reason why SF-36 differs is difficult to explain. It has been suggested that computer mode may increase anxiety in persons uncomfortable with computers," the authors write. "This could not be found in a study showing the contrary where neither computer inexperience or anxiety made [a] difference in scoring. However, apart from these ambiguities, it can be stated that the validity of touch-screen data are high compared with paper-and-pen questionnaires."

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