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University of Kansas researchers develop app to treat eating disorders

Laura Lovett

Eating disorders are traditionally tough to treat. At least 30 million people in the US have some type of eating disorder, but even with treatment only about 60 percent of patients recover from these disorders.

Researchers at the University of Kansas are currently developing a smartphone app for clinical use to help this unmet issue, and recently landed a $50,000 award from the National Eating Disorder Association to develop the product.

“Instead of developing new types of treatments, patient-focused treatment outcomes research is designed to improve outcomes by monitoring patient progress and providing feedback directly to therapists to enhance ongoing treatment,” Kelsie Forbush, assistant professor of clinical psychology at KU, who is leading the development of the app, said in a statement. “Research in other areas of mental illness shows that monitoring patient outcomes on a week-to-week basis can increase positive outcomes by as much as 20 percent and reduce the number of patients who would have a poor outcome by 10 percent, so it’s a potentially powerful way to help patients get better.”

The app will let clinicians track and assess a patient’s response to treatment using computer-adaptive technology (CAT). The app will guide clients through a series of questions drawn from two self-reporting measures commonly used to assess patients with eating disorders. The first is the Eating Pathology Symptoms Inventor (EPSI), and the second is the Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms (IDAS).

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