Transitioning to digital first line intervention – validation of a brief online screener for early identification of a suspected eating disorder: study protocol

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Background: Only one in four people with eating disorders seeks treatment, and of those who do seek treatment, 20% go on to experience a chronic course. Early intervention has been associated with better prognosis, with those seeking specialised intervention in the early stages of their illness more than twice as likely to achieve remission. Current screening measures typically require expert administration and are rarely validated across a spectrum of DSM-5 eating disorder presentations or for online use. In light of COVID-19 and increasing reliance on telehealth technologies in the intervention and delivery of mental health services, online assessments suitable for self-referral are likely to be the first step to seeking care. InsideOut Institute has developed a 6-item online screening tool for the purposes of identifying eating disorder risk and symptomatology, aimed specifically at increasing help-seeking behaviour in subsyndromal and early presentations. Methods: This study investigates the reliability and validity of the InsideOut Institute Screener (IOI-S), using a cross-sectional survey research design. Participants aged 14 and over will complete an extensive baseline survey battery for evaluation. 50% of participants will be randomly selected for one follow-up re-test of the IOI-S only, 2 weeks post initial testing. The IOI-S will be analysed for statistical reliability on two parameters: internal consistency and test re-test reliability, and for statistical validity on four parameters: concurrent validity, sensitivity and specificity, convergent and discriminant validity. Discussion: The rapid and ongoing shift to digital intervention has highlighted gaps and opportunities in our pathways to care. Adequate screening for eating disorders is a major gap. This study aims to validate an online screening tool for use in telehealth early intervention, designed for users seeking information for a suspected eating disorder. The screener meets those at risk ‘where they are’ (i.e. online) and may improve timely referrals to relevant services. This is of particular salience as face-to-face healthcare and traditional frontline interventions are disrupted, and we are challenged to re-design our practices to deliver diagnostic and treatment services in highly adaptive digital contexts.




Bryant, E., Miskovic-Wheatley, J., Touyz, S., Crosby, R. D., Koreshe, E., Cao, L., & Maguire, S. (2020). Transitioning to digital first line intervention – validation of a brief online screener for early identification of a suspected eating disorder: study protocol. Journal of Eating Disorders, 8(1).

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