October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a perfect time for organizations to reexamine their screening protocols and how they encourage this service among patients. This is especially important, because improving screening rates helps facilitate early detection of breast cancer, which greatly improves their odds of beating the condition.
While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a mammogram at least once every 2 years for women aged 50 to 74, many of these women do not opt to get screened. There are several reasons for this, including financial challenges and fear of pain.
According to the results of the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey in 2015, 71.6% of women aged 50 to 69 years had a mammogram taken within the past 2 years. As can be expected, women who had insurance were more likely to opt for mammograms.
Though variations exist in screening requirements, the recent American Cancer Society guidelines recommend that mammograms be done every year for women aged 45 to 54 who are at average risk for developing breast cancer. For women aged 55 and older, mammograms can be done every other year or every year, while those between 40 and 44 should be provided with an option to initiate screening.
Strategies for Engaging Patients
The benefits of mammograms should encourage providers to recommend them to their patients—even if some patients are worried about finances or inaccurate results. Some strategies to promote patient compliance with screening include:
- Making Recommendations During Regular Appointments
Regular healthcare appointments are great opportunities for providers to discuss the importance of screening. Mammograms should be recommended to suitable patients and any concerns should be addressed beforehand to ensure compliance. Leveraging flu season is also an effective strategy. Clinics can offer mammogram appointments and educational brochures to patients receiving their flu shots.
- Using Technology to Drive Better Screening
A chief challenge with getting patients to undergo mammograms is a fear of pain associated with the procedure. The University of Chicago Medicine has identified an innovative way to address this concern through the introduction of SmartCurve technology. It features curved compression paddles that make the experience less painful for the patients. Another technology-driven innovation is ePrognosis’ decision aid application, which helps women above the age of 50 to make decisions regarding their cancer screening requirements.
- Employing Targeted Messaging for Consistent Follow-up
Establishing communication channels and sending scripted messages can ensure mammogram completion within recommended timeframes. A pilot study using patient navigation scripts and postcards to educate women on the importance of screening in eight clinics in Utah reported a 10.9% increase in their screening rates, indicating communication’s important role in improving adherence.
A sample scripted message for reference:
“Hello, this is (provider name) with an important message for you. Routine mammograms are critical for early detection, and if you have not received a mammogram in the past 24 months, we encourage you to schedule one. Please contact us to schedule your screening.”
Additional strategies such as offering flexible appointments, developing and monitoring an organizational screening policy, and using incentives are also being employed by organizations to increase their mammography screening rates.
To know more fill out the form below and a member of our team will be in touch!