Digital use of standardised assessment tools for children and adolescents: can available paper-based questionnaires be used free of charge in electronic format?
Question: Most adolescents live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), and about 10% of them face mental problems. The mental health provision gap in low- and middle-income countries could be addressed by evidence- based practices, however costs are implementational barriers. Digitalization can improve the accessibility of these tools and constitutes a chance for LMIC to use them more easily at a low cost. We reviewed free and brief evidence- based mental health assessment tools available for digital use to assess psychopathology across different domains in youth. Methods: For the current study, instruments from a recent review on paper-based instruments were re-used. Addi- tionally, a systematic search was conducted to add instruments for the personality disorder domain. We searched and classified the copyright and license terms available from the internet in terms of free usage and deliverability in a digital format. In the case that this information was insufficient, we contacted the authors. Results: In total, we evaluated 109 instruments. Of these instruments, 53 were free and digitally usable covering 11 mental health domains. However, retrieving information on copyright and license terms was very difficult. Conclusions: Free and digitally adaptable instruments are available, supporting the strategy of using instruments digitally to increase access. The instrument’s authors support this initiative, however, the lack of copyright information and the difficulties in contacting the authors and licence holders are barriers to using this strategy in LMIC. A compre- hensive, online instrument repository for clinical practice would be an appropriate next step to make the instruments more accessible and reduce implementation barriers.