Patients' Social Needs Remain Critical During Cancer Treatment


Puneeth Indurlal, MD, MS, discusses the implications of assessing for patients' health-related social needs during the course of cancer treatment at the 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting.

A study presented at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting study investigated the use of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Distress Thermometer (DT) in electronic health records (EHR) to screen for health related social needs (HRSNs) among cancer patients. Data from EHR-based NCCN DT screenings conducted between July and December 2023 at 7 US Oncology Network practices was analyzed.

The study found that HRSNs are prevalent among cancer patients. Almost half (43.5%) of the screenings identified positive findings, indicating at least 1 problem or a distress score of 1 or higher. Over one-third (38.5%) of the screenings identified at least 1 problem, with more than half (58.2%) reporting problems in multiple areas.

The study also found that electronic capture of the NCCN DT in EHRs allows oncology practices to leverage data for comprehensive patient care. Action plans were documented for over half (55.7%) of the positive findings. However, the majority (79.6%) of patients declined assistance. Referrals to support services were more likely for screenings with multiple problems or high distress scores.

These findings suggest that screening for HRSNs using the NCCN DT is an effective way to identify patients who may benefit from additional support. Electronic capture of the data in EHRs allows oncology practices to track trends and develop targeted interventions to address HRSNs and improve patient outcomes.

Puneeth Indurlal, MD, MS, The U.S. Oncology Network, McKesson, The Woodlands, TX, author and presenter of the study, discusses the implications of its findings for community oncologists.


0:05 | Knowing that patients do face all of these distresses and have health-related social needs, assessing for them, collecting that information, trying to help address those social needs, is an important component of the care delivery spectrum. We do know that the unaddressed needs tend to cause patients to drop out from therapy or not receive therapy in the first place. [Patients] also have challenges with accessing their treatment or staying on treatment.

0:33 | We also want to recognize that these patients are operating the window within their day-to-day lives, and there's a huge disruption with the cancer diagnosis. So anything that can be done to alleviate some of those ancillary concerns can help patients get the best outcomes and also have a better quality of life.

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