Symptom and needs assessment screening in oncology patients: Alternate outreach methods during COVID-19

J Psychosoc Oncol. 2021;39(3):452-460. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2021.1890663. Epub 2021 Apr 1.


Patients with cancer are ideally screened for symptoms, including distress, using patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). This initiative was developed to ensure patients without access to an electronic portal were screened for distress and related symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, these patients could complete screening in clinic. However, many visits transitioned to telehealth. We implemented a standardized telephone outreach process targeting patients without active electronic portal accounts to improve remote symptom monitoring. Outreach resulted in 172 completed screens, identifying 110 needs for 63 individuals. Twenty-eight patients completed patient portal enrollment. Outreach calls captured a higher percentage of Black patients (34%) and a higher percentage of 61-80 year olds (69%) compared to portal users. Telephone outreach during the pandemic captured data that otherwise would have been missed in elderly and minority patients without electronic patient portal access. Patient engagement is vital to the distress screening process.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cancer; PROMs; distress screening; quality of life; symptom screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Behavioral Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Telemedicine*
  • Telephone*