Using the Science of Psychosocial Care to Implement the New American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Distress Screening Standard

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The American College of Surgeons (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) has advanced a new patient-centered accreditation standard requiring programs to implement psychosocial distress screening and referral for psychosocial care. The field of psychosocial oncology has advocated for routine distress screening as an integral component of quality cancer care since the NCCN Distress Management Panel first recommended this practice in 1999. Accreditation standards have a significant impact on practice patterns and quality of care. The new ACoS CoC Psychosocial Distress Screening Standard provides a unique opportunity to integrate the science of psychosocial care into clinical practice. National organizations, including the American Psychosocial Oncology Society, the Association of Oncology Social Work, the Cancer Support Community, and LIVESTRONG, can offer valuable guidance and resources. This article reviews ACoS CoC requirements, highlighting key research findings and providing practical considerations to guide programs with implementation. Although screening for distress encompasses many domains, this article reviews the evidence linking depression—one aspect of distress—and cancer outcomes to highlight the profound influence psychosocial care delivery can have on promoting medical outcomes and quality cancer survivorship. The authors describe distress screening program accomplishments at Northwestern University, including the electronic administration of NIH Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System computerized adaptive testing item banks. Electronic medical record integration facilitates real-time scoring, interpretation, provider notification, and triage for psychosocial care. Roughly one-third of patients have requested assistance with psychosocial needs. As ACoS CoC programs implement psychosocial distress screening and management, the emerging field of implementation science can guide future clinical program developments and research priorities.

Correspondence: Lynne I. Wagner, PhD, Department of Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University, 625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2700, Chicago, IL 60611. E-mail: lwagner@northwestern.edu
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