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‘Patient Navigation’ Helps Mammography Rates

October 22, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Practice Management
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Nagging can improve mammography rates for inner-city women, according to a new study.

The researchers (from Boston University School of Medicine) don’t actually use the term “nagging.” Instead, they speak of “patient navigation intervention.” Specifically, according to the study (published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine):

“Intervention subjects whose last mammogram was >18 months prior received a combination of telephone calls and reminder letters from patient navigators trained to identify barriers to care. Navigators were integrated into primary care teams and interacted directly with patients, providers, and radiology to coordinate care. Navigators utilized an electronic report to track subjects.”

Sure sounds like nagging to us. With perhaps a bit of guilt-tripping thrown in.

It worked. The study involved primary-care patients ages 51–70 at an inner-city academic medical center (Boston Medical Center). They were divided into intervention (1,817 patients) and control (2,078 patients) groups. Of the 3,895 total patients, 71 percent were members of racial or ethnic minorities, 23 percent did not speak English, and 63 percent had public health insurance or no health insurance.

At the beginning of the study, each group had a “mammography adherence” rate of 78 percent. After nine months of intervention/navigation/nagging, the intervention group’s rate had increased to 87 percent while the control group’s rate had slipped to 76 percent.

Christine Phillips, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and an internal-medicine physician at Boston Medical Center, led the study. A university news release quoted her as saying:

“Primary care-based patient navigation is a valuable intervention to help reduce health care disparities, especially in vulnerable patient populations served by safety net hospitals like BMC. We need to explore ways to help sustain such programs in resource-poor communities and integrate them into our current Medical Home in order to provide the highest quality of care for patients.”

In all seriousness, many patients could certainly use a little help in negotiating the complexities of our health-care system—especially those whose circumstances might get in the way of regular health care. Some type of patient navigation, even if it involves a little gentle nagging, is certainly worth considering.

Related seminar: Women’s and Breast Imaging

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