Randomized control trial to test a computerized psychosocial cancer assessment and referral program: Methods and research design

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine; Department of Psychiatry; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Adaptation, Psychological; Mental Health; Neoplasms; Patient Satisfaction; Referral and Consultation; Stress, Psychological; Psychological Tests; Therapy, Computer-Assisted


Health Services Administration | Mental and Social Health | Oncology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


The National Cancer Coalition Network, National Cancer Institute, and American College of Surgeons all emphasize the need for oncology providers to identify, address, and monitor psychosocial needs of their patients. The Mental Health Assessment and Dynamic Referral for Oncology (MHADRO) is a patient-driven, computerized, psychosocial assessment that identifies, addresses, and monitors physical, psychological, and social issues faced by oncology patients.

This paper presents the methodology of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that tested the impact of the MHADRO on patient outcomes at 2, 6, and 12 months. Patient outcomes including overall psychological distress, depression, anxiety, functional disability, and use of psychosocial resources will be presented in future publications after all follow-up data is gathered. Eight hundred and thirty six cancer patients with heterogeneous diagnoses, across three comprehensive cancer centers in different parts of the United States, were randomized to the MHADRO (intervention) or an assessment-only control group. Patients in the intervention group were provided detailed, personalized reports and, when needed, referrals to mental health services; their oncology provider received detailed reports designed to foster clinical decision making. Those patients who demonstrated high levels of psychosocial problems were given the option to authorize that a copy of their report be sent electronically to a "best match" mental health professional. Demographic and patient cancer-related data as well as comparisons between patients who were enrolled and those who declined enrollment are presented. Challenges encountered during the RCT and strategies used to address them are discussed.

DOI of Published Version



Contemp Clin Trials. 2013 May;35(1):15-24. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2013.02.001. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Contemporary clinical trials

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID