Contextual Factors Relevant to Implementing Social Risk Factor Screening and Referrals in Cancer Survivorship: A Qualitative Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Preventing chronic disease






INTRODUCTION: Social risk factors such as food insecurity and lack of transportation can negatively affect health outcomes, yet implementation of screening and referral for social risk factors is limited in medical settings, particularly in cancer survivorship. METHODS: We conducted 18 qualitative, semistructured interviews among oncology teams in 3 health systems in Washington, DC, during February and March 2022. We applied the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment Framework to develop a deductive codebook, performed thematic analysis on the interview transcripts, and summarized our results descriptively. RESULTS: Health systems varied in clinical and support staff roles and capacity. None of the participating clinics had an electronic health record (EHR)-based process for identifying patients who completed their cancer treatment ("survivors") or a standardized cancer survivorship program. Their capacities also differed for documenting social risk factors and referrals in the EHR. Interviewees expressed awareness of the prevalence and effect of social risk factors on cancer survivors, but none employed a systematic process for identifying and addressing social risk factors. Recommendations for increasing screening for social risk factors included designating a person to fulfill this role, improving data tracking tools in the EHR, and creating systems to maintain up-to-date information and contacts for community-based organizations. CONCLUSION: The complexity of cancer care workflows and lack of reimbursement results in a limited ability for clinic staff members to screen and make referrals for social risk factors. Creating clinical workflows that are flexible and tailored to staffing realities may contribute to successful implementation of a screening and referral program. Improving ongoing communication with community-based organizations to address needs was deemed important by interviewees.