Automated Technology: The Key to Helping Drive Mammogram Adherence

More than 245,000 women develop breast cancer every year in the United States. While a health system’s best tool to catch breast cancer early is through mammography, only 67 percent of women over the age of 40 report having a mammogram within the past two years.

With the shift to value-based care, health systems today are looking to adopt new ways to improve overall care, including implementing preventative care methods. For example, patient engagement tools continue to provide health systems another way to interact and engage with patients that may present as high-risk or who may need preventative screening – like a mammogram.

In fact, studies show that appropriate alerts and reminders can encourage patients to follow through with their appointments while also motivating them to take control of their health care. One study, in particular, on modern mammography screening programs in Europe and Canada, found that the mortality rate among women who are actively screened for breast cancer was reduced by more than 40 percent.

While there is a direct correlation between proactive screening and treatment results, many health systems today can struggle when it comes to identifying and adopting the best practices to improve preventative screening rates.

Four Steps to changing patient behavior and improving outcomes

Promoting behavior change in a non-adherent population is often difficult and time-consuming. However, there are solutions available today that provide persistent, consumer-focused engagement tactics that can lead to successful appointment outcomes.

With data at the center of clinical decisions, here are four ways to turn valuable information into actionable insights – both for the provider and patient:

  1. Understand your patient population. The right technology solution can automatically sift through large data sets and pull out individuals due or overdue for preventative care, such as women ages 50 to 75 that may need a mammogram appointment.
  2. Anticipate risk. By looking at the clinical data holistically, technology can identify patients that have gaps in their care. For most health systems, this may be an overwhelming list of individuals, so it is important to put tools in place that can determine and prioritize the patients in need of immediate care.
  3. Engage. Once individuals have been identified as priority patients, automated technology solutions can send out personalized, consistent outreach efforts including emails, phone calls or text messages.
  4. Modify patient behavior. Using clinically backed data to understand an individual’s care needs and provide consistent digital communication may further encourage patients to follow through with preventative screening, such as a mammogram.

The IBM Phytel Outreach solution for better health

The Iowa Clinic adopted IBM Outreach to improve patient engagement and close care gaps. One area it focuses on is identifying women in need of mammograms to increase breast cancer screening adherence. One patient, for example, received mammograms from 2004 to 2011 but did not book another one after the last appointment in 2011.

Using IBM Phytel Outreach, the Iowa Clinic automatically determined the patient was overdue for a mammogram and sent an automated message about the appointment. She booked her appointment on the day of the call, which resulted in a follow-up visit about a week later, a biopsy two weeks later, and a breast cancer diagnosis five days after the biopsy, with subsequent follow-ups booked beyond that date.

More preventative screening in 2020

As we head into 2020, leaders in the industry are aiming to improve preventative screening rates over the next year. The National Cancer Institute is aiming to increase the number of women ages 50 to 74 to have a mammogram to 81.1 percent in 2020.

Prevention should start early and include educational information. Many barriers patients face when it comes to receiving timely mammograms are simply not having an understanding of the importance of and the procedure itself. Prior to women becoming overdue, or even needing mammograms, outreach methods can be run to provide education and remind individuals on the importance of self-exams.

For health systems looking for ways to improve the health of their patient populations – particularly around major preventative measures such as breast cancer screening – it is imperative to adopt a technology solution that provides timely, clinical data that can translate into action.

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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mammography. 2017 Jan 19.
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  4. American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. 2017.
  5. Patient Outreach Result. IBM Watson Health. 2019 Sep.
  6. Healthy People. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), CDC/NCHS. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), CDC/NCHS.