Correlates of oncologist-issued referrals for psycho-oncology services: what we learned from the electronic voluntary screening and referral system for depression (eVSRS-D)

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Depression in cancer patients is under-recognized and under-treated. To better identify depression, we designed a voluntary depression screening system. Based on its data, we examined trends in oncologist-issued referrals for the psycho-oncology service (POS).


The Electronic Voluntary Screening and Referral System for Depression (eVSRS-D) comprises self-screening, automated reporting, and referral guidance. Using touch-screen kiosks at a tertiary hospital in Korea, participants with cancer completed the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 at their convenience, received the results, and reported their willingness to participate in POS. At oncology appointments, oncologists received the screening reports and issued referrals following pre-recommended guidelines. The correlates of actual referrals were examined across all participants and within the willing and non-willing groups.


Among the 838 participants, 56.3% reported severe depression symptoms, 30.5% wanted a referral, and 14.8% were actually referred. The correlates of participants' desire for referral were more severe depression symptoms, being unmarried, and being metastasis and recurrence free. Among all participants, the correlates of actual referrals were unemployment, less severe depression symptoms, poorer performance, treatment status, and wanting a referral. The sole correlate of actual referrals within the non-willing group was poorer performance, and no significant correlates existed within the willing group. The non-referrals were mostly (87.1%) because of postponed decisions.


The eVSRS-D cannot definitively diagnose major depression but may efficiently self-select a population with significant depression symptoms. The patients' willingness to engage the POS most strongly predicted the actual referrals. Oncologist reviews of screening reports may not result in further depression severity-specific referrals. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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