PATIENT RECRUITMENT, RENTENTION AND SAFETY AT WOMEN’S IMAGING CENTERS DURING AND AFTER A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

 

2020 significantly disrupted everyday life in the US and abroad.  With the passing and resurgence and passing again of the COVID-19 virus and related variants, businesses around the world have struggled to stay afloat and women’s imaging centers have not been immune to these ups and downs.  In fact, one could argue that women’s imaging centers took a significant hit and have not yet recovered.  In a recent news article published in Radiology Today, researchers in California noted a significant decrease in minority women screening numbers which is yet to come back to pre-pandemic levels despite significant efforts.  (“Breast Cancer Screening Numbers aren’t Bouncing Back to pre-COVID Levels for Some Imaging Providers”, Stempniak, August 2021.)

To entice women to come back to regular screening, clinics must modify pre-pandemic practices and in some cases take advantage of advanced automation features available from many diagnostic imaging vendors.  Steps must be taken to reduce any sense of anxiety they might be experiencing due to the pandemic; women need to feel safe, for themselves and their families .  Giving patients options to maintain social distancing guidelines and minimize unneeded interactions with people in a waiting room is one straightforward way to achieve a sense of safety.  Universally, screening centers have taken extra steps and implemented such safety precautions in addition to wearing masks, asking patients to wait in their car, frequent use of hand sanitizer and more.  There is more that can be done, however.  Screening centers need to consider implementing advanced automation features .  These advanced features can have a significant impact on further reducing patient anxiety prior to their appointment and are marketable to the general screening population to set some clinics apart from the others.

One such example offered by PenRad Technologies provides advanced automation functionality that allows patients to complete medical risk history and other electronic forms from their own devices,  many times from their home (https://www.penrad.com/penforms-digital-patient-forms/).  By completing patient history forms and taking time to accurately complete health history and cancer risk history forms, patients are more likely to provide accurate information which culminates in better care and contributes to that feeling of safe.  What’s more, having patients complete these forms electronically, means there is no more manual entry of data by technologists which means more attention can be paid to the patient and less expense in paying technologist time for data entry.

Patient anxiety issues do not end at the intake and appointment process.  Anxious feelings about screening results are often used as a reason to avoid mammography screening all together; these are well documented in the literature and pre-date the recent pandemic.  Adding to these feelings of hesitancy, recent news stories and guidelines such as the one published by University of Utah recommending patients wait 6 weeks after being vaccinated against COVID-19 gives patients yet another reason for postponing their screening exams.  While the clinical benefit of waiting 6 weeks post vaccination is clear (reduction in possible inflammation of lymph nodes), this represents another reason to postpone scheduling.(https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2021/02/mammogram-coronavirus.php)

Going the extra step and adding additional technology to the mammography screening process in the form of communicating exam results to patients the same day as their appointment can significantly reduce much of the patient’s anxiety as well.  Waiting three to five days for results of a routine screening exam in the age of email and texting seems like an outdated methodology for the savvy 50-60, even 70 year old patient, especially to those that are anxious about results.  What’s more, promoting electronic delivery of patient results same day, serves as a significant differentiator among regional women’s imaging centers.

Women’s imaging in the post pandemic era will never go back to what it was in 2019.  However, by making modest investments in patient education, patient safety and technology providers can significantly impact a clinic’s ability to engage new patients and retain existing patients, all the while, increasing the level of patient satisfaction and differentiating the practice in the marketplace.


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.

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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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