Tool helps predict patient violence risk

September 4, 2012

Inexperienced psychiatrists are less likely than their veteran peers to accurately predict violence by their patients, but a simple assessment checklist might help bridge that accuracy gap, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

Led by psychiatrist Alan Teo, M.D., a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and a Depression Center member, researchers examined how accurate psychiatrists were at predicting assaults by acutely ill patients admitted to psychiatric units.

Without the assessment tool, inexperienced psychiatric resident doctors correctly predicted patient violence at a rate no better than a coin flip, whereas veteran psychiatrists were 70 percent accurate. However, when a brief risk assessment tool was applied to the cases that the junior doctors evaluated, their level of accuracy jumped to 67 percent, or nearly as good as the more experienced psychiatrists. Results of the research were published online Sept. 1 in the journal Psychiatric Services.

“The tool we used, called the HCR-20-C, is remarkably brief and straightforward.  Like a checklist a pilot might use before takeoff, it has just five items that any trained mental health professional can assess,” Teo says. “Given public concern about this issue, I think teaching our budding psychiatrists and others how to use a practical tool like this, and encouraging its use in high-risk settings is a no-brainer.”

For more information, please see the full release here.