In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 was responsible for the postponement of thousands of routine mammograms.  According to a recent study in Cancer, (Fedewa et al), examination of data from 32 community health centers in the United States revealed 47,517 fewer screening mammograms were completed in 2020 (compared to average study volume) which led to an estimated 242 missed cancer diagnosis.

Typically, community health centers have patient recruitment issues and COVID-19 has clearly exacerbated those issues.  Imaging centers should look to technology companies such as PenRad Technologies, Inc. and others for assistance in patient communication, recruitment, and retention.  Connecting with patients on a routine basis, reminding them of important annual screening appointments, facilitating patient intake, returning screening results on the same day as the appointment, and identifying patients at increased risk of developing breast cancer and genetic screening programs, all lead to a sense of confidence and should increase adherence to annual screening regimens.

Getting those patients to return to screening is a challenge in and of itself.  New technology such as that offered by PenRad can automatically send a reminder letter not only to all women who have previously had a mammogram but also send a recruitment letter out to all women in the healthcare system over 40 years old.  A secondary benefit of this technology (PenAlert) is that it can provide a personal notification, in patient terms, of diagnostic imaging results directly to patients, providing another layer of confidence ensuring patient notification.  This functionality satisfies a current Pennsylvania law requiring patient notification of results by diagnostic imaging providers.  It is logical to assume this law may proliferate throughout the country in a similar fashion to Henda’s Law regarding breast density notification.

Continuing to reinforce that bridge between patient and provider, PenRad allows access to electronic patient intake forms from anywhere the patient has an internet connection using their personal device.  By selecting a secure link provided by the breast imaging center in a reminder email, patients can confidently and safely complete a much needed high risk questionnaire, complete any updates to their personal history, update HIPAA agreements, update insurance information and even watch a movie regarding what to expect during their visit.  Convenience for the patient and decreased data entry on the provider side; a win-win situation.

After the exam is complete many patients eagerly and nervously await their screening results.  PenRad’s PenConnect platform facilitates exam result delivery the same day as the screening appointment.  “The worst part of a mammogram isn’t being pressed between the plates to get the image; it’s waiting for the results,” says Linda Sanders, M.D., Medical Director of the Breast Center at the Saint Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center. But now that wait is dramatically shorter.  Because 90 percent of mammograms turn out to be normal, according to Dr. Sanders, most women will be reassured when they get their results. Of course, even a positive finding doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but for that minority, further testing is required. For most women, why delay good news?  “As a radiologist, I love it,” Dr. Sanders says of the new system. “It cuts the waiting time for results to an average of five to six hours. Some women get the email by mid-morning and can call us immediately to schedule their next step, if needed. Some even turn around and come back the same day. I’m thrilled that we can offer this service.”*

Staying in touch with patients over the course of the year, reminding them of healthy habits, informing them of the latest advancements at the clinic and breast care and reminding them about setting and keeping their annual screening exam date is very important to patient retention and ensuring their return.  PenConnect can facilitate electronic delivery of marketing materials, reminder letters and more, with a single click of a mouse.  Not only does this facilitate routine patient communication but it maintains and reinforces confidence in their relationship with care providers.

When patients feel confident in their care they are quick to share that information with others around them.  What’s more, maintaining that patient – care team confidence means more business for the affiliated healthcare system.  Women make most healthcare decisions for the family and that means husbands, children and many times extended families rely on the same care system for their own care.

Call PenRad and inquire about patient-centric workflow, automation, and marketing platform to get those patients back to the imaging center.  Not only will you increase your patient satisfaction numbers, decrease your own overhead costs and drive patient enrollment in your screening program, you just might identify a few more cancers, earlier and save a few more lives.

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About PenRad (www.penrad.com)

Founded in 1995, PenRad provides informatics for Breast, Lung, Diagnostic Radiology, and Genetics, optimizing productivity and risk management initiatives. PenRad delivers on promises made regarding revenue enhancement, functionality, multi-vendor interoperability, analytics, and delivery of patient centric results.

PenRad invests within the healthcare community, driving benefits for the future of diagnostic technology, techniques, analysis, and structured data exchange. We provide leadership and software in standardization initiatives in HL7 FHIR workgroups: Clinical Interoperability Modeling Initiative, and the Cancer-Interoperability project supported by the ONC, FDA, CDC, NCI, NIH, RSNA.

*Morris-Essex Health and Life Magazine, “Faster Breast Findings, Now Women can get their Mammogram Results Within Hours.”

About the Author

About the author.  Daniel D. Bickford (www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-bickford) is President of Pintail Strategic Consulting which has provided sales and marketing services to the diagnostic imaging industry, since 2015.  PenRad is a current client of Pintail Strategic Consulting.  Daniel was co-founder of Confirma Inc., the pioneer of breast MRI CAD technology and manufacturer or of CADstream.

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