Use of a self-reported psychosocial distress screening tool as a predictor of need for psychosocial intervention in a general medical setting

Soc Work Health Care. 2018 May-Jun;57(5):315-331. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2018.1437499. Epub 2018 Feb 20.


This study describes the development of a self-reported psychosocial distress screening tool for a general medical population and criteria to predict the need for psychosocial intervention. The objectives were to develop criteria to determine which patients need in-person screening and establish criteria identifying patients who are more likely to require psychosocial interventions. The outcomes have bearing on reducing initial psychosocial screening workload for medical social workers in high volume medical settings. Furthermore, a criterion for scoring the self-reported tool can predict which patients will need further social work intervention. The results suggest criteria are a score on the adapted Distress Thermometer of five or greater, at least two negative emotions, and a lack of health insurance. The optimal criterion identified 36% (446/1228) of patients in need of in-person screening with the remaining 64% (782/1228) screened low risk through the tool, representing a significant workload reduction.

Keywords: Distress Thermometer; General Medical Population; Predictive Rule; Psychosocial Distress; Screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / standards*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Work
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires