Patient phone calls and staff involvement help keep mammogram rates high

Dr. Bruins and nurse practitioner Karen Revitte

For George Bruins, M.D., the key to making sure his patients get annual screening for breast cancer is involving the entire office.

"It starts with having a registry or electronic medical record so it can easily be tracked," he said. "My medical assistant reviews health screenings at every visit and makes a note of what the patient needs."

Dr. Bruins says he empowers the staff to start orders and manage follow up. "The medical assistant can start an order in the electronic medical record and I can review and sign it when I see the patient," Dr. Bruins explained.

The office also tracks gaps in care, which requires leadership by the office manager to follow through on patient phone calls and checking on overdue results. When a patient is due for a mammogram, the office manager contacts the patient by phone. "Patients are better at following through when they receive a phone call," said Dr. Bruins. "If we don’t get results and think the screening hasn’t been done, another phone call is placed," said Dr. Bruins.

The office generally gives patients a few months to respond. Although Dr. Bruins prefers that the mammogram is scheduled by his office, patients can make an appointment without orders from the doctor.

The office doesn't get too many challenges from patients. But when they do meet with some resistance, Dr. Bruins provides patient education about mammograms as the most effective way to detect early cancers.

Dr. Bruins says he also explains to patients that breast cancer can appear in women without risk factors. Dr. Bruins also makes contact with patients after the screening. "I send the test results directly to the patient. I don't rely on the radiologist to do it," he said.