New breast care program helps decrease wait times, delivers faster test results, improves patient experience

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(BPT) - Anyone who has had a mammogram, or any other follow-up diagnostic testing, knows that waiting for results is the hardest part. For most women who get routine mammograms, waiting for results — even if normal — may take weeks, which can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. An abnormal result requires further investigation using medical technologies such as Contrast-Enhanced Mammography (CEM), ultrasound — or even a biopsy — waiting for these test results and a diagnosis can be agonizing.

Because of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of women across the U.S. delayed or canceled routine mammogram screenings, causing a disruption and a drop of nearly 60%. Now, many women are playing catchup.

While it’s great news that women are back to prioritizing these vital screenings, this also results in a backlog for clinics and radiologists who process all of these exams — and unfortunately for some women, the discovery of cancers that will require treatment. In fact, according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, due to the pandemic’s effect on the reduction of mammography screenings, delays in breast cancer diagnosis and reduced chemotherapy use for women in the early stage of the disease, by 2030, it’s projected this delay will result in nearly 2,500 additional breast cancer deaths due to disruption in breast cancer care.

Reducing time between screenings and treatment

In the U.S., it currently takes an average of 28 days between the time a woman has an abnormal screening mammogram and receives a biopsy, to 31.6 days for a first surgeon visit, and 52.6 days for breast surgery — with far longer delays experienced by women of color.

St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania, GE Healthcare and PINC AI™ Applied Sciences worked together to pilot a new model that led to the launch of the country’s first rapid diagnostic breast cancer center to address these gaps in the breast care model. The first-of-its-kind model in the United States piloted by GE Healthcare aims to change the breast care experience by reducing wait time for results to 36 hours or less. Modeled after the Gustave Roussy Cancer Center in France, the St. Luke’s One-Stop Clinic recently served their 100th patient since its introduction in July 2020. The model has proven to provide unprecedented patient benefits through an eight-year study that Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus performed with 11,000 women. Results include data like 75% of patients receive same day results, and the model helped with up to 50% reduced total cost for patients with benign cases.

By decreasing the time it takes for images to be assessed by radiologists, not only does the One-Stop Clinic model help lessen the anxiety and worry experienced by patients, but it also helps to improve health outcomes for patients who can begin treatment sooner.

Advanced technology and an accelerated time frame improve patient care

The combination of cutting-edge technologies used at the One-Stop Clinic include GE Healthcare’s Senographe Pristina mammography system, SenoBright™ HD Contrast-Enhanced Mammography (CEM), and the world’s latest innovation in breast biopsies, Serena Bright™. Together with these advanced technologies, a dedicated team of healthcare practitioners and a coordinating nurse navigator, the One-Stop Clinic is designed to manage patient care from initial appointment to diagnosis to executing the treatment plan in one location, with one team. This approach helps provide care for patients more efficiently and effectively than most clinics or hospitals can — and in potentially a significantly shorter timeframe.

“Partnering with GE to create this one-of-a-kind care model in the United States moves us to our ultimate goal: improving patient access at every stage of the healthcare journey,” said Michele Brands, network director, Women’s Imaging at St. Luke’s University Health Network. “Wherever you live, put your next mammogram at the top of your to-do list, because your family needs you. This is something that should be done like you go to the dentist. It is typically a 15-minute appointment. Just go in, don’t hesitate, don’t delay. Whatever it is, your team will be there to support you.”

To learn more about the One-Stop Clinic, visit