Seizing the opportunity: How radiologists can provide additional value to patients

Some women who undergo mammography fail to keep up to date with other recommended preventive health services, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. Can imaging providers do something to help those patients?

The authors studied survey data from more than 122,000 women with no histories of breast cancer who had a mammogram within the past two years. All women were between the ages of 40 and 74.

Overall, more than 93 percent of women who had a mammogram within the last two years had undergone a Pap test. More than 74 percent had undergone colorectal cancer screening, more than 69 percent had obtained the recommended pneumococcal vaccines and more than 49 percent had obtained recommended flu vaccines.

The authors also noted that “women with lower levels of education, women without health insurance and personal doctors, and lower-income women were statistically significantly less likely” to receive these services.

So, what does this mean for radiologists?

“National population-based survey results indicate that large proportions of women presenting for mammography have not obtained a wide variety of recommended preventative health services, suggesting ample opportunities for radiology practices to take a step forward in providing value-based, patient-centered care by partnering with primary care practices to improve population-based, imaging- and non-imaging-based health outcomes,” wrote lead author Anand K. Narayan MD, PhD, with the department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. “Although these types of activities are beyond the typical purview of radiology, they are in line with recent Imaging 3.0 initiatives encouraging radiologists to become active participants in collaborating with other clinicians to improve population-based health.”

Narayan et al. noted that whenever a patient visits an imaging provider for a mammogram, it represents a “promising opportunity” to discuss “the overall value of preventive services.” Making educational materials available in your radiology department’s waiting room, for example, is one way patients can be encouraged to seek out additional recommended services. Or radiologists can use data available in their electronic health records to see which patients are eligible for which services.

“Finally, radiology departments and health systems can consider organizing screening centers to facilitate not only mammography screening but also a wide variety of other preventative health care services,” the authors wrote. “Re-organization of screening facilities in this fashion would promote ‘one-stop shopping’ so that patients could receive a wide variety of preventative health services (mammography screening, Papanicolaou tests, vaccinations, lung or colorectal cancer screening) at the same visit.”

Narayan and colleagued noted that their study did have limitations, including the fact that patients may not remember exactly which services they have undergone. In addition, prior research has suggested that “preventive health services can be overestimated using self-reported surveys.”

In a related story, a study published in Radiology earlier this year found that Medicare beneficiaries who undergo mammography are more likely to utilize certain other preventive health services.