The first NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for Distress Management were published in 1999. Since then, a number of other organizations have advocated for distress screening. Previous surveys of distress screening showed modest progress in implementation of the NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management by NCCN Member Institutions (MIs); this review examined whether further progress has been made. Representatives appointed to the NCCN Distress Management Panel or their designee were asked to complete an online survey in the summer of 2018. The survey was developed based on similar surveys performed in 2005 and 2012 and a survey of psychosocial staffing conducted in NCCN MIs in 2012. New items solicited details about triaging, rescreening, formal screening protocols, and tracking of distressed patients. The survey was completed by representatives from 23 of 27 NCCN MIs (85%). Among the responding institutions, 20 (87%) currently conduct routine screening for distress and 3 are piloting routine screening. All respondents reported use of a self-report measure to screen for distress, with the Distress Thermometer most often used. A total of 70% of respondents rescreen patients for distress and 83% reported having a formal distress screening protocol in place. Once triaged, 65% of institutions who routinely screen for distress track clinical contacts and referrals; 70% track rates of adherence to screening protocols. Findings suggest wide acceptance and implementation of the NCCN Guidelines. Most respondents reported the existence of a formal distress screening protocol, with routine tracking of clinical contacts and referrals and rates of protocol adherence. Clinical experience and the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer accreditation standard for cancer centers appear to have resulted in greater adoption and implementation of the guidelines, but considerable opportunities for improvement remain.
Submitted June 7, 2019; accepted for publication September 5, 2019.
The authors have no financial interest, arrangement, or affiliation with the manufacturers of any products discussed in the article or their competitors. Drs. Donovan, Corbett, and Riba have disclosed they are panel members of the NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management.