APA House Call: Breaking the Psychiatric Testing Barriers

April 25, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann

How psychiatry can catch up to other specialties in accurate, timely diagnostics based on molecular breakthrough.

The 2020 American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting was cancelled this year, with plans made to convert the world-leading psychiatry conference into a two-part virtual session and educational platform for attendees.

In lieu of regular on-site coverage, HCPLive® will be running a series of interviews, insights, and reporting on topics that frequently headline the APA meeting—featuring familiar experts.

Despite all its great advances in pathology understanding and treatment development, psychiatry remains a specialty largely burdened by a lack of variables at the molecular level.

This hurdle toward naturalization is the background of an essay penned by Carsten Korth, MD, and Heiner Fangerau, MD, professors with the University of Dusseldorf. The pair prosed whether it is self-inflicted limits among psychiatrists that would theoretically prevent the embrace of a perfectly accurate blood diagnostic test—in lieu of a standard clinical diagnosis—for the identification of schizophrenia.

“We defend the provocative position that a complete substitution of the clinical diagnosis by a blood test is generally not desired among clinicians because various factors perpetuate the current diagnostic culture,” the colleagues wrote.

As Korth explained to HCPLive®, there is a currently understood discrepancy between neurosciences and applied biologics in psychiatric diagnosis—not just for schizophrenia. Though clinical diagnoses can serve a starting-point role in disease identification, it should not be overvalued compared to the potential capability of advanced, molecular-based diagnostics.

“We can still do fundamental science,” Korth explained, “but on the other hand, we may claim that we may not ever be able to substitute an interpretation of the mind by some natural scientific laws or insights.”

In his interview with HCPLive, Korth discussed the “negative self-fulfilling prophecy” of clinical psychiatry that may limit its progression toward improved, timelier diagnostics—and potentially, individualized therapy.