, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 33-45
Date: 16 May 2008

Unmet needs in cancer patients: development of a supportive needs screening tool (SNST)

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Abstract

Goals of work

A diagnosis of cancer can have a profound impact on the physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual areas of a person’s life. Supportive care services are directed towards this full range of issues associated with cancer. Identification of need is the first step in meeting supportive care concerns, but there is a lack of tools and processes regularly used in clinical practice. This article reports the first steps in the development of a supportive needs screening tool appropriate for use in an oncology outpatient setting.

Materials and methods

A review of the literature was undertaken, and a draft tool developed using a process of item reduction. A small pre-test followed by a pilot test with 87 patients attending Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Australia was undertaken. Evaluation to identify usability and acceptability in clinical practice included descriptive statistics to profile patient needs and referrals generated by the supportive needs screening tool (SNST), interviews with a small sample of participants and surveys completed by staff.

Main results

The SNST was developed with 41 questions, the majority requiring a yes/no response. From the tool, a total of 1,085 needs were identified (mean = 12 needs/patient). A total of 264 referrals were generated, with 72% of patients receiving at least one referral. Patients and staff reported high acceptability.

Conclusions

The SNST has face validity and demonstrated usability in an ambulatory care oncology stetting, as first steps in instrument development. Further testing of reliability and validity are being undertaken.