Reduced prevalence of pain and distress during 4 years of screening with QUICATOUCH in Australian oncology patients

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While psychosocial screening has been recommended in oncology for some time, widespread adoption in clinical practice has lagged. The QUICATOUCH program is one example of sustained clinic-level screening, assessment and referral. We examined whether this program was associated with reductions in pain or distress. Oncology outpatients completed a brief, computerised assessment using Distress and Pain Thermometers. We describe population levels of pain and distress and model pain and distress scores over 4 years of the program. 9,133 patients were screened on 26,385 occasions over 48 months (October 2007-September 2011). Pain over threshold (1/10) reduced over time, from 33% in the first 3 months to 16% in the final quarter of the evaluation. Distress over threshold (4/10) reduced from 28% to 10%. A reduction was also observed when restricted to patients screened for the first time. Our analysis demonstrated this effect was not explained by measured potential confounders (gender, age, treatment status) and was unlikely to be attributable to regression to the mean. Observational studies cannot prove causation. However, the significant reduction in pain and distress levels in the 48 months following commencement of QUICATOUCH is consistent with a beneficial effect of the program.

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