Telephone Calls Encourage More Timely Mammography Follow-up

August 23, 2018

More research needed to evaluate the role of communication in completing the breast cancer screening episode.

Telephone communication for patients after screening mammography results in higher rates of follow-up imaging, according to a study published in the journal Academic Radiology.

Researchers from several states sought to evaluate the association of communication practices with timely follow-up of screening mammograms read as Breast Imaging Reporting and Data Systems (BI-RADS) 0 in the Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens (PROSPR) consortium.

The researchers analyzed 34,680 mammography examinations with a BI-RADS 0 assessment among 28 facilities. Timely follow-up was considered to be within 15 days of the screening mammogram.

The results showed that across all facilities, 85.6 percent of examinations had a follow-up within 15 days. Patients in a facility where routine practice was to contact the patient by phone if follow-up imaging was recommended were more likely to have timely follow-up. When mail was the standard method of communication, there was reduced timely follow-up. Facilities that had standard use of electronic health records to report the need for follow-up imaging to a provider also had less timely follow-up. Facilities that routinely contacted patients by mail if they missed a follow-up imaging visit were more likely to have timely follow-up.

The researchers concluded that there was value to using telephone communication for patients in relation to timely follow-up. Future research is needed to evaluate the role of communication in completing the breast cancer screening episode.