Does routine psychosocial screening improve referral to psychosocial care providers and patient-radiotherapist communication? A cluster randomized controlled trial

Anna P. B. M. Braeken*, Lilian Lechner, Danielle B. P. Eekers, Ruud M. A. Houben, Francis C. J. M. van Gils, Ton Ambergen, Gertrudis I. J. M. Kempen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: This study tests whether using a screening instrument improves referral to psychosocial care providers (e.g. psychologist) and facilitates patient-radiotherapist communication. Methods: A cluster randomized controlled trial was used. Fourteen radiotherapists were randomly allocated to the experimental or control group and 568 of their patients received care in accordance with the group to which their radiotherapist was allocated. Patients in the experimental group were asked to complete a screening instrument before and at the end of the radiation treatment period. All patients were requested to complete questionnaires concerning patient-physician communication after the first consultation and concerning psychosocial care 3 and 12 months post-intervention. Results: Patients who completed the screening instrument were referred to social workers at an earlier stage than patients who did not (P <0.01). No effects were observed for numbers of referred patients, or for improved patient-radiotherapist communication. Conclusions: Our results suggest that a simple screening procedure can be valuable for the timely treatment of psychosocial problems in patients. Future efforts should be directed at appropriate timing of screening and enhancing physicians' awareness regarding the importance of identifying, discussing and treating psychosocial problems in cancer patients. Practice implications: Psychosocial screening can be enhanced by effective radiotherapist-patient communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-297
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Distress
  • Screening
  • Oncology
  • Cancer
  • Communication

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