• cancer;
  • oncology;
  • depression;
  • screening;
  • transplant;
  • computer


Objective: To (1) evaluate the feasibility of touch screen depression screening in cancer patients using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), (2) evaluate the construct validity of the PHQ-9 using the touch screen modality, and (3) examine the prevalence and severity of depression using this screening modality.

Methods: The PHQ-9 was placed in a web-based survey within a study of the clinical impact of computerized symptom and quality of life screening. Patients in medical oncology, radiation oncology, and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) clinics used the program on a touch screen computer in waiting rooms prior to therapy (T1) and during therapy (T2). Responses of depressed mood or anhedonia (PHQ-2 cardinal depression symptoms) triggered additional items. PHQ-9 scores were provided to the oncology team in real time.

Results: Among 342 patients enrolled, 33 (9.6%) at T1 and 69 (20.2%) at T2 triggered the full PHQ-9 by endorsing at least one cardinal symptom. Feasibility was high, with at least 97% completing the PHQ-2 and at least 96% completing the PHQ-9 when triggered and a mean completion time of about 2 min. The PHQ-9 had good construct validity. Medical oncology patients had the highest percent of positive screens (12.9%) at T1, while HSCT patients had the highest percent (30.5%) at T2. Using this method, 21 (6.1%) at T1 and 54 (15.8%) at T2 of the total sample had moderate to severe depression.

Conclusions: The PHQ-9 administered on a touch screen computer is feasible and provides valid depression data in a diverse cancer population. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.