PROVIDENCE – A new study conducted by Rhode Island Hospital has found that academic medical centers have higher rates of recall following mammography than community radiology centers.
The study, which was published online today in the journal Radiology, followed five radiologists who worked at both sites, and compared the rates of recall for each site.
The patients who received their mammogram at the hospital were typically younger – an average age of 56 at the hospital and 63 at the community practice – and younger patients have a higher rate of recall. The hospital patients also had a higher incidence of previous surgeries and biopsies, which can complicate the interpretation of the images.
The federal government currently uses recall rates – the frequency at which a radiologist interprets an examination as positive and the patient is instructed to return for more testing – as a quality indicator to calculate Medicare payments, according to lead researcher and author Dr. Ana Lourenco, a radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital.
“Recalling a patient for a mammogram has an impact on both the patient, and on the hospital,” said Lourenco. “Hearing that they need to return for another mammogram can cause a great deal of anxiety for patients.”
A better quality metric, Lourenco suggested to the Providence Business News, would be in data mining to get a better breast cancer detection rate.
“The difference in recall rates does not indicate the quality of the centers,” Lourenco said. “Demographics such as age and prior procedures play a very large role in the rate of recall, and it’s important that patients know that a recall is not suggestive of a definitive diagnosis. While radiologists aim to keep recall rates down, they also must put the patient’s health first. If that means conducting a second mammogram to be confident about the results, then they will call the patient back in.”