For many years, mammograms have been at the center stage of all breast imaging. And while still an integral part of breast screening, new legislature is shaping the entire breast imaging workflow. With the rise in density awareness, mammograms are beginning to take a backseat to other modalities, such as ultrasounds, screening MRs, breast nuclear medicine, and of course, tomosynthesis. Now is the time to reevaluate your workflow, stay current with the changes, and provide the best, most efficient services to your patients.
In recent years, diagnostic attention to breast density has been on the rise. At the time of this writing, 24 states (and 10 more on the way) have passed laws requiring breast density scores to be reported to patients. Because tumors can be easily distinguished from normal tissue in only half a very dense breasts imaged with the traditional mammogram, some states have taken this a step further and now require additional imaging types for women with dense breasts. Patients are becoming savvier with their health and are requesting additional screening tools, even paying out of pocket for them.
Many Merge PACS™ users have reported a doubling and tripling of breast imaging modalities outside of mammograms. In fact, one client was able to develop a specialized breast MR screening protocol to drop the cost to less than half of the traditional protocol. Without a PACS that can support the specialized workflow of breast radiology and general radiology concurrently, mammography is often segregated into its own system. However, a comprehensive system that can handle the workflows across the entire health system will present a seamless, lateral patient view across all possible breast imaging modalities.
Evaluate Your Current Strategy
The first step in evaluating your current strategy is to look at the workflow. Breast imaging may span across several modalities and manually assigning studies to breast worklists is time-consuming and now unnecessary with a PACS that can support subspecialty reading. Studies are automatically segregated to the work list designated to the breast specialists based on the procedure code from the order. This ensures that regardless of modality, breast studies are presented only to the appropriate radiologists.
The next step in evaluating your breast strategy is the visualization. Rather than cramming the unique workflow and toolset of breast imaging into a general radiology PACS, the best practice is reading from a PACS that includes a suite of mammo-specific tools and can support the specific hanging protocol needs of breast specialists to most efficiently read cases. By reading mammograms with a comprehensive system, the tools and workflows of all other modalities are natively supported. All reading can be done on one workstation, whether the radiologist is focused solely on breast imaging, or rotates through multiple specialties.
Understand the Whole Picture
When evaluating your breast imaging strategy, it’s important to understand the whole picture. While tomosynthesis is at the head of most conversations, it is only the beginning. As density awareness rises, patients are becoming more educated and informed, and legislation is moving the needle even farther. Maintaining a comprehensive breast imaging package, fast report turnaround times, and attracting these “savvy” patients are at the forefront of every breast strategy. Mammograms are no longer the sole star of the show and only present a fraction of the patient’s record. Additional workstations are expensive, require more space, and create inefficiencies. Why pay more for a disjointed workflow when one system can provide a complete breast imaging management package?
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