By Cristin Gardner
In today’s highly mobile and connected world, consumers have grown more accustomed to instantaneous data sharing in other aspects of their lives, and expect the same for their healthcare delivery experiences. We can share just about anything we want with our entire network with a few clicks; unless it’s our health data.
Take breast health as one example. Statistics show that 60 million women in the United States get regular mammograms. Women are increasingly demanding better information and more transparency regarding their breast health, as having access to prior mammograms is critical for accurate and efficient cancer detection.
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Unfortunately, the majority of patients today must still navigate a healthcare system in which data blocking is an entrenched business strategy and physician practices cling to old technology such as faxes and compact discs (CDs) to deliver data to patients. This becomes particularly problematic for patients when considering that most laptops and tablets don’t come equipped with disc drives, and the majority of patients do not have easy access to a fax machine. This creates an environment where capturing a patient’s medical history, and arming them with their imaging data in a usable format, is an ongoing challenge.
Patients and providers alike face several barriers when it comes to breast imaging. These barriers often stand in the way of achieving early diagnosis of breast cancer in the most optimal way, and drive millions of false positive diagnoses each year. Some of the most significant challenges include:
1. Lack of prior mammograms
Mammography screening is the best early detection method for early stage, treatable breast cancer. When detected on a mammogram, it is typically 96-99% curable without significant therapy. Because every woman’s breast tissue is unique, clinicians rely on a woman’s prior breast health images to determine what is considered “normal” for each patient, versus an early sign of breast cancer. Sadly, at least one in four women do not have their prior exams available at the time of their screening. When these exams are not available, the patient may experience false positives (results that incorrectly indicate an abnormality) and redundant costly testing, or medical decisions are made with the limited information available. Research reveals that when these prior exams are available at the time of screening, women, together with their providers, are able to make informed decisions and there is significant clinical, experiential and economic value created. Furthermore, having the history readily available reduces the stress that patients experience due to uncertain test results.