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Aspirus Keweenaw reduces wait for mammography

August 2, 2011
By KELLY FOSNESS , Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

LAURIUM - The idea behind Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital's One Call breast care program is to make mammography more accessible to women.

"It was two-fold - getting the self-referring mammogram and the other part of that is getting quick care," said chief nursing officer Grace Tousignant. "We felt that women in this community deserved that shortened time period and could come in for their mammograms, call and schedule the mammogram without having a physician order because it is a woman's right to have the mammogram."

Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital introduced the One Call concept June 1 and it is the first medical center in the western Upper Peninsula to offer self-referral mammograms, Tousignant said.

"Where we have seen the successes is the rapidness of the turnaround time as far as getting in, getting further tests, or seeing a surgeon (or their primary care provider) for a concern," she said. "What else we've heard in the community is that it allows the autonomy for that woman to call and schedule that mammogram and continue with whatever follow-up is needed."

The One Call breast care program is designed for two categories of women, said family practice physician Dr. Sharon Stoll.

"For women who don't have a concern, like a lump or a bump, we'll just schedule you for your regular routine mammogram," she said. "For women who maybe do have a concern, we'll get you in to see a women's health provider within 24 hours."

When a patient calls to schedule a mammogram, they'll initially speak with patient navigator Joan Marx, who will ask a series of screening questions.

"If the patient has a problem, then we get them in to see a provider the same day and their mammogram will be scheduled to follow that appointment," Marx said. "We had a patient who called at 10:30 a.m. and by 4 p.m. she had been through the whole process."

Tousignant said waiting is the hardest part for patients, especially if they have a concern.

"We have a process in place that keeps that from happening," she said.

Imaging from the patient's mammogram is reviewed within 24 hours, Tousignant said, and if additional images are requested from the radiology team, the patient will be called within the next two business days.

In addition, a report on the imaging is sent to the patient's health care provider within two days and the health care provider would be notified if additional imaging is required, she said.

If no additional images are needed, and it's a normal test, Tousignant said the patient will receive a letter in the mail in seven days confirming their mammogram results.

Christy Baccus, lead tech in the mammography department, said if the patient needs additional images, they call the patient back the same day.

"Also, if they need an ultrasound in conjunction with that, we schedule them at the same time," she said. "We like to get them in within 24 to 48 hours. The sooner the better. Less wait, less worry."

Stoll said women can still get their mammograms by going to their primary care provider for their annual exam and scheduling it that way. However, there are a number of reasons why a woman may want to self-refer.

"This is for those who maybe don't have a regular physician ... maybe you're only in town for the summer ... or maybe the way your insurance is set up, you're due for a mammogram now but you're not going to see your doctor for three more months," she said for example. "Self-referrals are common in other places. ... This is giving women in the U.P. the same option."



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