Polaris Begins Commercial Development of Mental Health Assessment System for Oncology

Langhorne, PA (Aug. 12, 2010)– Polaris Health Directions, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, has launched the development of a behavioral health assessment system for cancer patients, following the successful trial of a pilot version. Starting this fall, the Mental Health Assessment and Dynamic Referral System for Oncology (MHADRO) will be rigorously tested with 1,000 patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, in Worcester, Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, N.J., and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. 

MHADRO is the first computerized clinical decision support system for oncology to provide patients with a report that is tailored to their condition and concerns, and includes motivational messages, where to find self-help or treatment resources, and an automatic referral for those interested in formal treatment or support groups. Developed with funding from the National Institute for Mental Health, it supports physicians by screening and monitoring for: (1) depression, anxiety and other mental health symptoms; (2) cancer-related physical symptoms and side effects; (3) the quality of the relationship between the physician and the patient; (4) potential barriers to treatment and (5) adherence to the medical regimen and lifestyle change recommendations.

The initial testing of MHADRO involved the assessments of 101 cancer patients at the Cooper Hospital’s Cancer Institute. For 48 (48%) of the patients, their oncology providers stated that the Healthcare Provider Report contained important information that had not been assessed during their medical evaluation. For 22 patients, providers stated that the new information changed the way they managed the patient, such as starting a new psychotropic medication. Thirty (49%) of the 61 patients, whose assessments indicated a level of distress unusually severe for cancer patients, received referral information that they likely would not have received under routine clinical care, according to their providers. 

These results indicate the potential MHADRO holds to help oncologists identify and manage distressed patients, and to promote among their patients social support, self-help and treatment engagement for behavioral health conditions, including depression, anxiety, social isolation and smoking. 

For more information on Polaris’s oncology product, click here or send an e-mail to moreinfo@polarishealth.com. Follow us on Facebook.


The project described was supported by Award Number R42MH078432 from the National Institute for Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute for Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.