Aims: The current study investigates cancer patients’ opinions on psychosocial screening using the Distress Thermometer (DT) and Dutch Problem List (PL).
Methods: all cancer patients consecutively visiting out-patient oncology clinics in 6 hospitals in North-East the Netherlands were asked to complete questions on the DT/PL, communication about the response pattern, and referral. Descriptive and correlational analyses were computed.
Results: Of the 550 cancer patients approached, 302 participated (55%). Four-fifths replied they completed a DT/PL; 33% once, 31% twice, 36% between 3-8 times. Percentages of respondents (totally) agreeing that the DT/PL were: useful for my medical specialist/nurse=91%; suitable for its purpose=88%; easy to complete=81%; useful for myself=79%; pleasant=76%; difficult to encircle a number on the DT=66%; burdensome=31%; difficult=30%; time-consuming=29%. Of the respondents, 67% (totally) agreed that DT/PL completion gave them insight into problems they experienced and 56% into severity of these problems; 59% that it helped in the communication with the health care provider and 43% in the communication with relevant others. Seventy-eight percent would recommend others to complete the DT/PL. No significant relationships were found between DT score or the number of times the instrument was completed and any of these opinions. Seventy-two percent replied that the response pattern on the DT/PL had been discussed with them. Ninety-five percent answered that communication was with a nurse and 93% of patients was (very) satisfied. Of the respondents, 60% responded that psychosocial or allied health professional care was offered but not needed, 24% that care was not offered and not needed, 15% that care was offered and needed, and 1% that care was needed but not offered.
Conclusion: cancer patients were mainly positive in evaluating the DT/PL, indicated that communication with staff took place in almost three-quarter of the cases, and that referral was in accordance with patients’ needs.