The value of happiness: Patients satisfied with care more likely to undergo a mammogram

Radiologists are always looking for new ways to improve screening mammography utilization among their patients. According to a new study published by Academic Radiology, one way to produce an uptick in utilization is by ensuring patients have a strong relationship with their primary care physician and are satisfied with the quality of care they receive.

The authors retrospectively studied a 2013 survey of Medicare beneficiaries, seeking connections between their perceptions of their primary care physicians and their utilization of screening mammography. They examined data from more than 7,400 patients and found utilization was much higher for individuals with a significant level of consistency in their healthcare. Medicare beneficiaries with a “regular medical practice or clinic" had a much higher level of screening mammography utilization (more than 63 percent) than those who did not (more than 34 percent). In addition, utilization was noticeably higher for patients who were “very satisfied” with the quality of care they received (66 percent) than those who were “very dissatisfied” (more than 35 percent).

In addition, utilization was higher when the patient “strongly agreed” that their physician is competent (66 percent) as opposed to “strong disagreeing” with that sentiment.

“Our findings have implications for breast imagers' ongoing efforts to promote greater screening compliance,” wrote lead author Andrew B. Rosenkrantz, MD, MPA, of the department of radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues. “Past work has explored how radiologists may improve the patient experience during the process of undergoing the mammogram itself. But, based on our findings, we encourage radiologists to approach breast cancer screening even more holistically. Breast imagers should work closely with their health systems' primary care physicians, providing education regarding guidelines and institutional practice, ensuring that referring physicians are able to navigate the imaging department and properly receive communication of imaging findings, and being readily available for questions and requests for further assistance.”

The authors also emphasized the importance of patients having “high-quality compassionate primary care” they can access conveniently.

“Ultimately, we believe, breast imagers will be more successful expanding breast cancer screening if their efforts include fostering robust primary care partnerships within their systems,” Rosenkrantz et al. wrote.

The authors added that their study did have limitations. For example, due to the nature of the study, the actual access to care and the actual quality of care for each patient could not be confirmed. Also, since the survey answers were only from Medicare beneficiaries, the findings may not reflect the feelings of non-Medicare patients.