4 patient categories all breast imaging providers should know

For a new study in the American Journal of Roentgenology, more than 1,600 patients completed a survey about their personal preferences when it comes to selecting a breast imaging center. The authors then used that data to separate patients into four distinct categories: convenience optimizers, ambivalent patients, medical center seekers and expertise seekers.

“Through a better understanding of the factors that influence patient decision-making, healthcare organizations can optimize the delivery of services to improve patient satisfaction outcomes,” wrote lead author Rajni Natesan, MD, department of radiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues.

All patients received care at one of six breast imaging sites from August 3, 2015, to September 11, 2015. The survey featured 18 questions administered electronically.

Natesan et al. determined the four patient categories by focusing on their care preferences, noting that there “were no significant differences in age, marital status, insurance, income, and other demographic factors” between the groups.

“Each cohort showed distinct preferences for imaging center location and radiologist training. Cohorts were differentiated based on patient education level, ethnicity, and patient cancer history,” the authors wrote.

According to the study, convenience optimizers prefer a breast imaging center’s location over the training of its physicians. They prefer not to commute very far for their care and have low rates of personal cancer history.

Ambivalent patients have a medium rate of personal cancer history. They have no strong preference either way, though it “may be evolving over time.”

The other two patient cohorts each have high rates of personal cancer history. Medical center seekers prefer location over physician training, and expertise seekers care more about the training of their physician than the location of their facilities.

The authors offered examples of how this information can help imaging leaders provide better patient-centered care, something that has grown in importance significantly in recent years due to changes in various reimbursement policies.

“Healthcare organizations may want to choose a distributed location model to effectively serve the convenience optimizers cohort who prefer a relatively nearby community location over a more distant main medical center,” the authors wrote. “With sensitivity to the distinct needs and preferences of patient subpopulations, institutions can provide service and expand in meaningful ways to positively impact early detection of breast cancer and outcomes.”