Healthcare professionals’ opinions on psychological screening in follow-up care for childhood cancer survivors
Implementation of screening for psychological distress in populations at risk, as recommended in existing guidelines, can be challenging on different levels: structural, organisational and personal (provider and patient). A specific group at risk for psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, is the growing population of childhood cancer survivors (CCS). In many countries, including Switzerland, the standardised assessment of psychological late effects during follow-up care is not yet established. The emotion thermometer, a short and validated assessment tool to screen for psychological distress, might facilitate implementation of psychological screening in Swiss CCS follow-up care.
AIMS OF THE STUDY
To inform implementation strategy and assess readiness of centres to integrate standardised psychological screening, we conducted a cross-sectional survey. We describe healthcare professionals’ opinions on (i) the current standard of psychological screening in follow-up care, (ii) their experience using the emotion thermometer, and (iii) perceived barriers and facilitators of possible implementation of psychological screening, including the emotion thermometer.
We contacted 49 healthcare professionals involved in CCS follow-up care in all nine paediatric oncology clinics in Switzerland. The electronic survey included closed and open questions.
A majority of the healthcare professionals (17/24, 71%) stated that assessment of psychological distress is currently not standard in follow-up care. On the contrary, about half of them (11/24, 46%) think that psychological distress is adequately assessed in follow-up care. None of the participants had any previous experience with the emotion thermometer. After being informed about the emotion thermometer, nearly 80% (19/24) agree that it appears to be a good screening instrument and support the idea of regular application during follow-up care. Facilitators of implementation included the instrument’s brevity, its ability to visualise psychological topics and raising awareness of the need to think about the psychological side of follow-up care. Barriers included lack of time, the additional effort and the perception that instead an informal assessment would be sufficient. Concerns about using an artificial assessment, rather than a natural conversation, were also expressed.
There is overall agreement that screening for psychological late effects is not yet standard in follow-up care in Switzerland. It is important to mitigate perceived barriers and concerns of healthcare professionals to enable a successful implementation of psychological distress screening according to the established standards of care.
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