Cancer Support Community and Its Social Enterprise Patient Planning Services Launch New Pediatric Distress Screener

Checking IN addresses mental health needs of children with chronic conditions

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Cancer Support Community and its social enterprise, Patient Planning Services, are announcing the launch of their newest product Checking IN, the novel digital mental health screening tool. Checking IN is a web-based pediatric distress screener for patients aged 8 through 21 who have chronic medical conditions. This evidence-informed screener gives providers insight into the psychological distress that their patients may be experiencing and how parents are perceiving their child’s mindset.

CSC and PPS have a decade of experience developing and managing adult distress screeners for healthcare providers. With Checking IN, they are responding to a need for mental health screening for younger patients. According to a study published in the journal Cancer Medicine, 48% of children and adolescents with cancer met criteria for anxiety, depression, or both following their diagnosis. Using Checking IN, pediatric patients answer a brief questionnaire that asks them about their emotions and well-being. The questionnaire uses a format and language that is designed specifically so children can understand and feel comfortable answering. For example, the screener avoids the word “distress,” which children dislike. The real-time responses allow providers to identify which patients are at risk so those patients can be contacted by a mental health clinician in a proactive manner.

Checking IN was developed to address a gap in the existing distress screeners, such as assessing for symptom interference or suicidal ideation. Checking IN has a number of features that distinguish it from existing pediatric screeners, and it provides real-time feedback to the provider. Providers found that Checking IN “[elicits] clinically useful and novel information,” according to research done on the screening tool. Checking IN, used in a standard manner with children receiving treatment for chronic conditions (e.g., cancer or other illnesses) may be the best way to facilitate early recognition of psychosocial distress, enhance communication with the treatment team, increase family engagement in care, and ultimately lead to better clinical outcomes. 

“At CSC and PPS, we understand how important it is to screen people diagnosed with chronic illnesses, like cancer, for distress and connect them to helpful resources as quickly as possible,” said CSC CEO Debbie Weir. “Children are perhaps the most vulnerable members of this group. Building on CSC’s long experience screening adults, we are thrilled to contribute our extensive knowledge to the extraordinary team that has come together to develop a distress screener that speaks to children in their language through a familiar platform and helps healthcare professionals respond quickly.” 

Developed by researchers in the Pediatric Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health, both part of the National Institutes of Health and using technology from PPS and CSC, Checking IN is an evidence-informed digital distress screening solution for chronic illness in pediatrics. The tool was launched for cancer, cardiology, and blood disorder patients at Atrium Health Levine Children’s in January 2023 and will become available for 13 additional pediatric specialties over the course of 2023.

“We are excited to launch the Checking IN program across all pediatric specialties,” said Amii C. Steele, Ph.D., division chief of Pediatric Psychology at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital. “We believe it will create an integrated health model that works to identify mental health issues before they grow severe and to connect pediatric patients to timely mental health services.”

“As we move out of the research phases and into the clinical realm, our hope is that the systematic use of Checking IN will elicit clinically significant information that can be acted upon by care teams to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to their pediatric patients, as we have seen with our adult patient and caregiver proprietary screeners,” said Cate O’Reilly, MSW, vice president of Patient Planning Services.

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About the Cancer Support Community

As the largest professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, the Cancer Support Community (CSC), including its Gilda’s Club network partners, is dedicated to ensuring that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. CSC achieves its mission through three areas: direct service delivery, research, and advocacy. The organization’s Institute for Excellence in Psychosocial Care includes an international network that offers the highest quality social and emotional support for people impacted by cancer, as well as a community of support available online and over the phone. The Research and Training Institute conducts cutting-edge psychosocial, behavioral, and survivorship research. CSC furthers its focus on patient advocacy through its Cancer Policy Institute, informing public policy in Washington, D.C. and across the nation. For more information, please call the toll-free Cancer Support Helpline at 888-793-9355 or visit


About Patient Planning Services

Founded in 2013, Patient Planning Services (PPS) is the social enterprise for the Cancer Support Community. Dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the Cancer Support Community, PPS licenses proprietary programs and technology to hospitals, cancer centers and nonprofits.

Backed by research in digital distress screening, the proprietary measures provided by PPS score distress, provide risk subscales, and offer resources to help providers react and create action around the distress scoring. PPS works with patients, health care providers and community organizations to provide distress screening and other assessments on a digital platform that allows for both dynamic and static resource allocation in real time while meeting accreditation standards. PPS has expanded and now provides support for a number of chronic conditions in addition to cancer support.


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