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Strategies for Obtaining Past Mammogram Films

December 18, 2009
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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One of the simplest ways to lower the rate of false-positive mammograms is to read a patient’s prior films along with the current exam. This simple practice alone has cut the recall rate in half at some facilities. But obtaining past films isn’t always easy. Here are some ways, adapted from an audio presentation for Practical Reviews in Radiology, to enlist your patients’ help:

1. Think, “location, location, location.” Encourage women to have their screenings done at the same facility every time so their past films will be easier to retrieve.

2. Avoid walk-ins. Scheduling mammograms as walk-ins gives your retrieval system little to zero chance of getting earlier films in time. Better to schedule screenings with enough time so you can have the films in hand.

3. Tell the patient what you need and why. Encourage patients who’ve had screenings done elsewhere to either bring the films with them or provide the address of where they can be obtained. Explain that having the past films will make the current test reading more accurate and that you’ll need to allow enough time to get them.

4. Use authority appropriately. Experience shows that patients are far more likely to bring in past films when their doctor asks them to do so rather than the office receptionist. That makes sense, since the patient is more likely to know and trust her doctor than a stranger out at the front desk. Take the time to personally explain that seeing past films is a crucial part of her screening and you’ll have better chances of success.

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