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Identifying a patient’s preferred method of communication can open the door for optimal, respectful patient care.
Although visual- and hearing-impaired individuals do not account for the majority of breast imaging patients, providers can anticipate encountering more such patients in the near future. And, knowing how to best communicate with these women – and meet their imaging needs – will be critical.
According to national statistics, approximately 30 million Americans over age 12 have hearing loss, and 26.9 million have some form of vision loss. These impairments can make providing screening and diagnostic breast imaging services a challenge, said a multi-institutional team of investigators. Consequently, radiologists must create protocols to ensure they are treating these patients with respect.
“Breast radiologists should critically analyze the types of communication required in every scenario and determine whether or not the current processes and available options can provide the appropriate level of communication,” said the team led by Claudia J. Kasales, M.D., a breast radiologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple Health in Philadelphia. “All members of the breast health team, from scheduling staff to front office personnel, technologist, and breast imaging radiologists, should understand how to respectfully communicate with and identify the needs of patients facing these challenges.”
The team published their findings in the Sept. 25 Journal of Breast Imaging.
Although these encounters can be stressful and emotionally charged for patients, the team said, there has been little focus given to educating breast health providers about how to effectively interact with these patients. Overall, they said, it is important to remember that every patient’s circumstances and experiences will be unique.
“The key is to determine what level of service or aid is required to communicate effectively and to understand how to respectfully incorporate it into practice,” the team said. “But, to make such a determination, a breast imaging provider must better understand the needs of their patients facing communication challenges."
To most effectively treat these patients, the team said, there are several factors to consider.
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Just like patients who have hearing loss, those who have low vision will also need individualized care, the team said.
It is imperative, the team said, for all breast imaging staff to be trained in how to best care for patients who have communication challenges due to hearing and vision loss.
“Every breast cancer team member needs to understand the heterogeneity and varying needs of the patient population and how their interactions with the patient can dramatically affect the overall experience,” they said.
To reach this goal, they said, breast imaging providers can organize educational opportunities through in-service lectures, lunch-and-learn talks, or by sharing educational articles with their colleagues, including scheduling staff, front office personnel, aides, technologists, navigators, and trainees.
“It is vitally important that breast center providers understand the requirements…for interactions with the patient, as well as their family members and partner,” the team concluded.