Screening for distress (the sixth vital sign) in a global recession: sustainable approach to maintain patient-centered care

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A substantial volume of research on the psychosocial impact of cancer clearly indicates that patients are likely to experience emotional distress. There is also evidence that psychosocial interventions aimed at decreasing distress provide tangible cost offsets to cancer patients, caregivers and treating institutions. One seemingly major drawback in the setup and delivery of a fully fledged screening program for distress is the extensive pecuniary requirements. Given that the categorical need for distress screening may be confounded by financial limitations, especially in a time of global recession, a cost-effective alternative seems appropriate. The model proposed herein is not a substitute screening program, nor does it eliminate the need to allocate resources to address the identified risks. It does, however, offer a cost-effective alternative to implement a high-risk distress patient identifying process, quite similar to algorithms used in screening for prostate cancer.

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