Cancer programs are performing moderately well with regard to communicating the importance of psychosocial care to patients, identifying patient psychosocial needs, and referring patients and families to psychosocial services, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown. However, these institutions are performing less well in terms of providing that care over time.1

For the study, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Social Work in Ann Arbor, Michigan, sought to investigate cancer-treating institution’s capacity to deliver comprehensive psychosocial support services.

Researchers surveyed 2134 oncology care clinicians at 60 cancer-treating institutions evaluating the capacity of their institutions to provide psychosocial care.

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Results showed that 62% of respondents reported a mid-level capacity. Providers at community cancer programs reported a significantly greater capacity with regard to patient-provider communication, psychosocial needs assessment, and continuity in the delivery of psychosocial care over time as compared with providers at NCI-designated, academic, or comprehensive cancer centers.

Researchers found that nurses and primary medical care clinicians were more likely to report a significantly lower capacity for connecting patients and families with necessary psychosocial services within their respective cancer programs. These clinicians also reported a significantly higher capacity for conducting follow-up, re-evaluating, and adjusting psychosocial treatment plans.

The findings suggest that gaps in psychosocial service capacity are a result of patient, provider, and system characteristics, and that interventions are needed to improve psychosocial care delivery.


1. Zebrack B, Kayser K, Padgett L, et al. Institutional capacity to provide psychosocial oncology support services: a report from the Association of Oncology Social Work [published online ahead of print April 12, 2016]. Cancer. doi:10.1002/cncr.30016.