Mobile App Self-“Assessment”

In the dream physician office, a kiosk is set up in the waiting room where patients complete a whole series of pre-visit assessments. I’m envisioning something like a validated diagnostic questionnaire pre-loaded into a tablet computer attached to a small stand outside the office door. What’s really happening, though, is that patients are finding free and cheaply-developed assessment apps and trying to self-diagnose.

A quick search of the app marketplaces for common diagnoses such as ADHD, autism, or depression turns up dozens of “screener,” “quiz,” and “test” apps. When you examine the app details, though, none state which assessment is used, let alone whether it’s a researched and validated one. Yet parents may download the “Instant ADHD Screener” app, rush their high-scoring children to a clinician, and be convinced the physician is wrong if their diagnosis doesn’t match what the app said.

Unfortunately, most patients are unaware that psychometrically-validated evidence-based assessments used by clinicians are completely different from most quizzes and tests on the Internet. Psychometrically-validated evidence-based assessments have been examined extensively and are published in peer-reviewed journals or books, providing the necessary evidence that they really do assess what they were designed to assess.

With “rate yourself” quizzes and tests available everywhere, it falls to the provider to begin the discussion about validated self-assessments early in the patient-provider relationship. You may want to search the marketplaces for apps that provide researched, validated self-assessments and make a list to hand out to your patients. You could also write up a brief comparison of the results of a validated self-assessment and the assessment of an app you’ve had patients mention – demonstrate how and why your results are more accurate.

To get started, check out the Provider Pro section of for thorough information on the validated self-assessments used in our modules. For validated self-assessment on the go, your patients might like T2’s LifeArmor app. What other sources for patient self-assessment would you recommend?

Jae Osenbach, Ph.D. is a research psychologist and subject matter expert with the Mobile Health Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Jae Osenbach