The 5 Minute Mammogram

I have been impressed recently at how much the patient experience has changed where my family receives health care. It is obvious the healthcare system that we patronize is working on increasing or keeping their patient satisfaction scores, and therefore the reimbursement at the highest level. Cooperation from physicians in treatment plans, decrease in wait times, scheduling assistance, patient advocates, and more access to medical records have shown vast improvements during the last two years.

Covid-19 has exhausted everyone in healthcare and about the time we think that we are emerging from the storm, there is another surge or wave that flattens us. Covid-19 has prevented a significant number of normal patients from getting their annual physicals and diagnoses. Severity of cancer rates and stages are increasing, as well as patients waiting too long and finding treatment options limited.

We thought that vaccines were going to be our answer but too much exuberance over the “light at the end of the tunnel” has backfired. Side effects such as the small percentage of blot clots seen in female patients has seriously reduced the trust factor for vaccines.  What? Will we ever be able to safely interact with others?

Mammography experienced several setbacks last year. First, routine mammograms were delayed as Covid-19 risk increased. Many Breast Centers closed or reduced staff because of the lack of patient procedures. Clearance to resume screening procedures has been interrupted by discovery that the vaccine causes imaging to display findings that cannot be explained without further investigation.  This produced recommendations that mammograms be delayed for 2 months after Covid-19 vaccinations.  Now mammography technologists are describing reductions in the procedure scheduling from a normal 15-20 minute procedure slot to a 4-6 minute procedure slot. This will probably not increase patient satisfaction scores.  Patient Centric healthcare is not Number centric healthcare. Where is the tipping-point? Providing enough time for the patient’s emotional care as well of the physical care does not fit with Number centric healthcare. Reimbursement rates for mammography cannot compete with the CT or MRI, o patient empathy and understanding are part of the basic formulation of a successful mammography department.

In the current electronic media driven internet world, patients are selecting healthcare providers based on what they see and read on social media plus the many review pages where physicians and facilities are ranked by the people they serve.  My community has at least two community posting boards on Facebook where anyone in the membership can ask for recommendations and/or ratings on a particular physician or healthcare facility. They routinely ask those questions before embarking on the healthcare journey with an unknown.

Specifically, a procedure as personal as a mammogram must not be an assembly line devoid of human explanation. Patients must not be viewed as dollars walking into the facility.  Loss of quality care coupled with loss of imaging integrity will cost more in the long term of missed diagnosis. Mammography practice is reported to be the most litigious in the industry. Is the risk of reducing the time for a quality imaging exam and procedure worth missing the most important diagnosis a woman requires?  We must re-evaluate our choices to maintain the patient experience.

Can a quality mammography procedure occur in 4-6 minutes? Your thoughts?

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