Communication factors in the follow-up of abnormal mammograms
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OBJECTIVE: To identify the communication factors that are significantly associated with appropriate short-term follow-up of abnormal mammograms.
DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal study involving medical record review and patient survey.
SETTING: Ten academically affiliated ambulatory medical practices in the Boston metropolitan area.
PARTICIPANTS: One hundred twenty-six women with abnormal mammograms requiring short-term (6 months) follow-up imaging.
MEASUREMENTS: Proportion of women in the study who received appropriate follow-up care.
RESULTS: Eighty-one (64%) of the women with abnormal mammograms requiring short-term follow-up imaging received the appropriate follow-up care. After adjusting for patients’ age and insurance status, 2 communication factors were found to be independently associated with the delivery of appropriate follow-up care: 1) physicians’ documentation of a follow-up plan in the medical record (adjusted odds ratio, 2.79; 95% confidence interval, 1.11 to 6.98; P=.029); and 2) patients’ understanding of the need for follow-up (adjusted odds ratio, 3.86; 95% confidence interval, 1.50 to 9.96; P=.006). None of the patients’ clinical or psychological characteristics were associated with the delivery of appropriate follow-up care.
CONCLUSIONS: Follow-up care for women with abnormal mammograms requiring short-term follow-up imaging is suboptimal. Documentation of the follow-up plan by the physician and understanding of the follow-up plan by the patient are important factors that are correlated with the receipt of appropriate follow-up care for these women. Interventions designed to improve the quality of result follow-up in the outpatient setting should address these issues in patient-doctor communication.
Key wordstest result follow-up abnormal mammogram patient-doctor communication patient safety quality improvement
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