When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March 2020, most health systems put a pause on elective procedures and screenings to keep healthy patients out of their facilities, prioritize treating COVID patients, and slow the virus’ spread. This included postponing annual mammogram screenings scheduled in the early months of the pandemic.
The number of cancer screening tests received by women through the CDC National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program declined by 87% during April 2020 compared with previous five-year averages. Additional data from Epic Health Research Network – which collected numbers from 60 healthcare organizations representing 10 million women – found about 50% of women scheduled for a routine mammogram missed their appointments and 25% of women postponed care for breast cancer symptoms, resulting in delayed diagnoses and treatment.
Healthcare organizations like yours continue to experience the post-COVID ramifications of postponed preventive screenings and necessary exams, including later-stage diagnoses and a surge in cancer rates. This continuing drop in patient volume both affects financial bottom lines as well as overall population health.
In order to maintain healthy operations, you need to drive health consumer acquisition and engagement. One of the most impactful ways to do this is by getting people to complete their postponed yearly screenings and sign up for their next one.
In preparation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month later this year, we’re highlighting the importance of getting women back on track with regular mammograms.
Changing Barriers to Care
Your patients face a host of external and internal barriers that keep them from scheduling and showing up for mammogram appointments — barriers that can change unexpectedly.
Some external barriers, like the pandemic, impacted everyone regardless of life circumstances. Dynamic changes in COVID-19 regulations and prevention protocols impacted perceptions of and interactions with the healthcare system. The Delta surge made providers less available and patients had to reschedule and reassess risk levels.
There are many types of barriers to care. These can be cognitive (e.g. defaulting to the status quo of not getting care), psychosocial (e.g., being misinformed, fatalistic), physical (e.g., having a disability), or due to life circumstances (e.g., experiencing a job change, health plan change, and other social determinants of health [SDOH], like transportation, work flexibility, and Internet access). As the environment and people change, these barriers change over time, dynamically impacting whether a patient completes a health screening.
Dynamically addressing each person’s specific barriers and communicating uniquely via their preferred communication channel is paramount to moving each person towards critical preventive screenings. The delays in care due to the pandemic have created even more urgency.
Research published in the March 29, 2021 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shared preliminary results from the University of Wisconsin Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET). Their breast cancer model estimated that 75% fewer screenings over six months, and a six-month delay in diagnosis for one-third of women with an abnormal result or clinical symptoms, would result in over 5,000 excessive breast cancer deaths (a 1% increase) in the United States between 2020 and 2030.
Now is the time to effectively communicate with them about the importance of receiving preventive care, getting back on track, and maintaining a routine cadence.
Keys to Responsive, Hyper-Personalized Communication
To effectively address your patients’ changing barriers to getting care, you need a seamless, nimble, scalable communication method tailored to each patient.
Here are a few keys to overcome your patients’ current barriers and get them routinely screened.
1. Understand What Makes Your Patients People
Patients’ reasons for not scheduling or not showing up to a mammogram appointment are vast and varied, and often unrelated to their medical conditions. Understanding your patient population is key. Collecting SDOH data and identifying common cognitive biases and barriers affecting patients’ decisions and behaviors is a critical step in promoting preventive care.
With this understanding, you can develop messages that speak to your patients’ entire personhood, focusing on what keeps them specifically from scheduling and attending appointments. Lirio translates this data from your systems of record to your systems of engagement, serving as an intelligence layer that derives meaning out of patient information.
This hyper-personalized approach can help reduce disparities that occur in women’s health screenings. Compared to July 2012, in July 2020, breast cancer screening rates were only about 7% lower for white women and 3% lower for Black women, but still 27% lower for Hispanic women and 49% lower for Asian women.
2. Create a Sense of Urgency
It’s essential to start communicating before patients schedule an appointment, as their health journey starts long before they walk through your doors. In particular, your organization needs to prioritize communicating with patients who were already overdue for mammogram appointments before the pandemic. Knowing they may have personal hesitations, start nudging them toward scheduling a mammogram now and emphasize the urgency of their situation. You can then create target timelines that account for potential delays.
The messages sent should address identified cognitive biases and overcome psychosocial and SDOH barriers to screenings. Lirio’s Precision NudgingTM accounts for all of this. It’s built with behavioral science and orchestrates behavioral interventions that address cognitive biases and overcome each person’s barriers.
By orchestrating hyper-personalized interventions for the overdue group of patients, and deploying them at scale, you can move them to take the right action quickly and re-engage or maintain their engagement in preventive care – supporting your acquisition goals and increasing your overall patient volume.
3. Learn from Your Patients
COVID-19 taught us that our health can always change – and often without warning. Your communication methods must respond quickly when change happens.
One way to stay on top of change is by continuously learning about your population and what factors play into each individual’s healthcare decisions and actions. Patients want to be known, so know them.
With this active knowledge about your patients, you can adjust your communication accordingly to ensure your messages resonate. Lirio’s Precision Nudging helps you do this through continuous learning. It gets smarter over time, learning which behavioral interventions work for each person.
It then makes adjustments based on recipients’ interactions and responses. And it gathers unique and valuable data insights that can inform decisions down the road. Dynamic message optimization and flexibility ensure you don’t get caught off guard when your patients inevitably experience new barriers to care.
Lirio’s Precision Nudging™ Intervention for Mammograms
To help healthcare organizations increase women’s health screenings, Lirio offers a Precision Nudging™ intervention that moves patients to schedule and attend mammogram appointments.
Lirio’s Precision Nudging™ is the application of tailored behavioral science solutions to overcome patient-specific barriers to action at the right time and place, and it works to help your patients achieve scalable, sustained behavior change. The result is a more engaged patient population, improved health outcomes, and sustained growth for your organization.
Catch our webinar replay on how Bon Secours Mercy Health leveraged Lirio’s Precision Nudging™ intervention for mammograms with “Beyond October—Building Patient Trust and Engagement with a Year-Round Mammography Strategy.”
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