Looking to the Future and Improving Patient Care

Psychiatric TimesVol 37, Issue 8
Volume 37
Issue 8

The next several years will present challenges and opportunities for psycho-oncology to improve care for patients.



The field of psycho-oncology is evolving in important and meaningful ways. Screening for distress in patients with cancer is now a concept that is accepted and expected; how this is achieved, however, may vary. Some countries and cancer centers have a uniform system, whereas other countries and centers—and sometimes even clinics within the same center—allow for autonomy in terms of which scales or instruments are used, frequency of screening, and different protocols for various levels of distress.

The next several years will present challenges and opportunities for psycho-oncology to improve care for our patients. For example, it is important that we determine which evidence-based treatments should be provided to which patients and at which points in their trajectories of care. Similarly, how we provide care is certain to evolve, as it is likely telepsychiatry options will become more prevalent. With COVID-19, we have gained experience with the technology, and insurance companies and governmental payers have become more flexible about how we deliver services to patients. For all fields, and psycho-oncology in particular, this could be a positive aspect to come out of a very difficult time. It will be important for us to study and test various ways to provide needed services in this format.

Likewise, the articles in Part II of this Special Report provide a glimpse into the ways the field is evolving. For instance, Wendy G. Lichtenthal, PhD, and colleagues share insights into meaning-centered psychotherapy; our ability to translate such important work to greater numbers of patients is essential.

Psycho-oncology also has gotten firmly incorporated in fellowship training in consultation-liaison psychiatry. The articles by Carey J. Myers, MD, PhD, and Carolina Retamero, MD, on suicide and cancer and by Lawrence E. Kaplan, DO, FACLP, on lessons learned provide opportunities to recognize the importance of framing major psychiatric topics and providing the best care possible.

Through our work with the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) as co-chairs of the WPA Section on Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care, we recognize that these issues are important for psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians throughout the world. We appreciate that Psychiatric Times has recognized the importance of bringing these topics to you by leading authors, and we hope this inspires you to learn more. We also thank you, the reader, for your interest in these meaningful clinical topics. And, we thank our patients, who continue to inform and educate us so that we can provide better care.

Dr Riba is Professor, Department of Psychiatry, and Director, PsychOncology, University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI; she also is Deputy Editor in Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric TimesTM; Dr Grassi is Professor and Chair of Psychiatry, University of Ferrara, Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, and Director, University Hospital Psychiatry Unit, S. Anna University Hospital and Health Authorities Ferrara, Italy. They report no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this Special Report.

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