Polaris Launches Clinical Trial to Study Impact of a Psychosocial Outcomes Management System for Oncology

Langhorne, PA (Feb. 10, 2011)– Polaris Health Directions will launch a clinical trial this month to examine whether using an outcomes management system that provides for a more proactive approach to addressing cancer’s psychosocial impact will improve the quality of life for patients.

Nearly nine million Americans have been diagnosed with cancer. For many, depression, anxiety, the will to live and social supports will play a significant role in the degree of suffering cancer patients experience and in the quality of the individual’s life.

“The potential impact of this study is tremendous,” said Edwin Boudreaux, principal investigator of the study and professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “We hope to demonstrate that using a computerized method for screening and referral for psychological distress among cancer patients will improve the mental health care they receive, lead to a better quality of life regardless of the progression of their disease and lower the long-term costs related to poor mental health and increased health care utilization.”

The single-blind randomized clinical trial will take place at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, the Cooper Cancer Institute, in Camden New Jersey, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Dallas, Texas. One thousand cancer patients with varying degrees of illness will take a psychosocial assessment using the Polaris Mental Health Assessment and Dynamic Referral System for Oncology, or MHADRO, at baseline, with follow-up assessments at two, six and 12 months post-baseline.

For the Intervention Group (n=500), the results of the assessment will be reviewed by the subject’s oncology team and used to develop a treatment plan. MHADRO’s predictive modeling capabilities will aid physicians in decision making. The subject will receive a tailored Patient Feedback Report, which provides information on managing cancer symptoms and side effects and available psychosocial support groups.

In addition, the subject will have the option of an automated referral. In this scenario, the MHADRO system will match subjects to the providers who best fit their mental health needs; an abbreviated report will be automatically sent to the clinician who will then initiate contact with the patient.

The Control Group (n=500) will also take the MHADRO assessment, but the medical teams will not review the reports and the subjects will not be offered an automatic referral. Instead, they will receive treatment as usual.

Through the results of this study, the research team will assess whether MHADRO increases referrals to mental health treatment and reduces psychological distress among cancer patients. The researchers will also examine the effect MHADRO has on patients’ relationship with their cancer providers, medical regimen, lifestyle changes, medical outcomes, health care utilization and return to work.

Development of the MHADRO continues Polaris’s mission to develop systems that support the integration of behavioral health care and medical care. By recognizing that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand, Polaris believes it possible to improve long-term outcomes while lowering costs by reducing health care utilization.

For more information on the clinical trial or MHADRO send an e-mail to moreinfo@polarishealth.com. Follow us on Facebook.

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This project was supported by Award Number 5R42MH078432 from the National Institute on Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIMH or the National Institutes of Health.