Automated technology: The key to helping drive mammogram adherence

By | 3 minute read | October 7, 2020

Middle age Black woman with small smile facing camera.

Every year in the United States, more than 250,000 women develop breast cancer. While a health system’s best tool to catch breast cancer early is through mammography, only 65.3% 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. Patient engagement tools, for example, 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 appointment and motivate them to take control of their healthcare. One study in particular, of 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%.

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 motivating patient engagement and helping to increase adherence

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 scheduling.

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

  • 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 – 75 that may need a mammogram appointment.
  • 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 help them determine and prioritize the patients in need of immediate care.
  • 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.
  • Patient adherence. 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 Phytel Outreach to help them 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 during a seven-year period, but had not booked another one after the last appointment, despite being overdue.

Using 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.

Preventative screening

As we head into 2021 and adapt to the new normal resulting from COVID-19, providers are beginning to resume normal screening operations and are focused on creating a healthy, safe screening environment for patients. Regular screening is still important, and the The American Cancer Society has provided necessary recommendations for healthcare facilities so that regular preventative screening can continue. Additionally, leading organizations are recommending that women of a certain age – 55 and older – that are of higher risk for COVID-19 be screened every two years.

Prevention should start early and include educational information. Many barriers patients face when it comes to receiving timely mammograms is 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.  IBM Phytel Outreach, with its ability to send automated in-person and telehealth reminders, can help motivate patients to seek preventative treatment both in-person or virtually (as appropriate).

Get in touch to learn more about IBM Phytel