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MRA Thought of the Day – Do You Have an Action Plan for Implementation of Standard 3.2: Psychosocial Distress Screening?

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Elizabeth R. Patena, M.D., CTR Vice President of Cancer Registry

Elizabeth R. Patena, M.D., CTR
Vice President of Cancer Registry

Although this Standard is to be phased in for 2015, now is the time to prepare an action plan before the implementation in January 2015. What do you, as the Cancer Registrar, need to do to prepare for this Standard?

Here are my thoughts…

First, include the implementation of this Standard as one of your Cancer Program’s goals. Standard 1.5 requires the cancer committee to establish, implement, and monitor at least 1 clinical and at least 1 programmatic goal for the endeavors related to cancer care. Implementation and establishment of Psychosocial Distress Screening can be a programmatic goal directed toward the scope, coordination, and processes of care for patients. Patients dealing with a cancer diagnosis will experience psychosocial distress. Among other issues, patients may be concerned about how they will be perceived by friends and family; whether they will be able to return to work after treatment; and how to pay their medical bills. Identifying these stresses and providing resources to help patients cope is the focus of this standard.

Next, have your cancer committee select a psychosocial representative to oversee this activity. He/She may be the oncology social worker, clinical psychologist, or other mental health professional trained in the psychosocial aspects of cancer care.

Then, select the time of the screening. The Standard requires that patients are offered screening for distress a minimum of one per patient at a pivotal medical visit. Examples of a “pivotal medical visit” include time of diagnosis, transitions during treatment, and transitions off treatment. Preference is given to pivotal medical visits at times of greatest risk for distress.

Next find out if your facility has an established mode of administration for distress screening. This may be in the form of a patient health questionnaire or clinician-administered questionnaire. If not, you can help establish a form with questions whose patient answers may show signs of psychosocial distress. Develop a depression scale and recommendations for support and/or solutions.

Present to your cancer committee for approval and final implementation.

What are your thoughts?

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