Pandemic or Not, the Work to Provide Lifesaving Breast Cancer Screening Continues Beyond October

Amy Patel, MD, Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Young and Early Career Professional Section, contributed this post.

Dr. Amy K. Patel

Suffice it to say, it has been quite a different kind of October in some ways. We had and continue to have great concern about women delaying lifesaving screenings or avoiding them altogether because of the pandemic, in addition to concerns about patients losing insurance coverage and having no access in various parts of the country. Additional concerns of safety and cleanliness were also at the forefront, and we quickly came together as a breast imaging community to lay a framework of what practices and institutions could do to keep patients and the breast imaging healthcare team safe as our doors remain open.

With that, the ACR unveiled the Return to Mammography Care Campaign, which provides a toolkit which practices can use to educate all healthcare stakeholders and provide reassurance to patients that it is safe to return to breast centers and radiology departments to receive the care they need.

Also to the contrary of a typical October, many of us in the field of breast imaging are used to doing in-person speaking events, radio shows and TV shows — essentially any in-person opportunities presented to us — so that we may educate as many people as we can regarding all things breast cancer and health. However, our worlds quickly flipped to the virtual space, and we found ourselves in a position to find new ways to engage patients, perhaps in ways we never previously fathomed.

For example, the situation we are currently experiencing presented new opportunities to shine a light on health equity, and the field of breast imaging hosted two recent webinars through the ACR and Society of Breast Imaging. These webinars were a declarative statement in voicing that our field is making ALL patients a priority, regardless of geographic location and financial status, and that we will continue to work tirelessly to address health inequities and keep this conversation going as the urgency of this is felt, arguably, now more than ever.

The work that we do is not easy, and the pandemic has added at times unfathomable layers to an already complex system and battle with contrarian groups to ensure our patients have the recommended access to the screenings they need. However, what remains constant is our commitment to our patients no matter what circumstance we face. The value of saving as many patient lives as we can is too great for us not to be connected to our patients and the breast cancer community as a whole. We must be willing to devise novel ways for community outreach, to inspire a new generation of young leaders to join us in the fight and to have an unwavering commitment to the well-being of our patients. Pandemic or not, October or not, we will continue to march on. 

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Continuing the Fight to Avert Impending Medicare Cuts

Melissa M. Chen, MD, member of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Commission on Economics, contributed this article.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, increased Medicare payments to providers who often bill using evaluation and management (E/M) current procedural terminology codes will result in drastic payment cuts to radiologists and other specialty providers. The radiology community continues to march on in our efforts to preclude these looming cuts.

The ACR is committed to keeping members informed of critical details and the latest updates. The Radiology Cuts Due to Medicare Evaluation and Management Changes: What You Need to Know section on acr.org is continually updated with E/M resources, including breaking news, impact tables, detailed summaries and more.

In addition, I’m looking forward to participating in the panel for the Medicare Cuts: What You Need to Know virtual Town Hall on Oct. 29 at 8pm ET alongside five other expert colleagues, including Howard Fleishon, MD, MMM, FACR; Lauren P. Golding, MD; Geraldine McGinty, MD, FACR; Gregory N. Nicola, MD, FACR and William T. Thorwarth, Jr., MD, FACR. We hope that you will join us.

The ACR is also leading a coalition of over 50 healthcare provider organizations to urge Congress to waive the budget neutrality requirements within the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule to provide relief from reimbursement cuts associated with changes to E/M codes. Recently, the coalition sent a letter to Representatives Mike Burgess, MD (R-TX), and Bobby Rush (D-IL), to recognize their leadership in introducing H.R. 8505, legislation that would support our efforts to waive budget neutrality requirements stipulated in Section 1848(c)(2) of the Social Security Act for the impending E/M code changes. And, on Oct. 9, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), wrote to both Senate leadership and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee urging Congressional action to waive budget neutrality requirements or hold healthcare providers harmless from these cuts. In her letter, Sen. Collins also emphasized the negative impact these reductions would have on both physician and non-physician providers and their patients, especially as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Register to attend the Medicare Cuts: What You Need to Know virtual Town Hall on Oct. 29 at 8pm ET to continue this important discussion regarding the impact of these ill-advised Medicare cuts, steps the ACR has taken to counter them and actions radiologists and allied professionals can take that may help avert them.

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Radiology’s Role in Health Equity

Efren J. Flores, MD, Officer, Radiology Community Health & Equity at Massachusetts General Hospital, contributed this post.  

Advancing health equity is a team-based effort in which we all play a vital role. To advance equitable care across all communities, we must come together to take action and overcome structural barriers that include racial, socio-economic and geographic barriers, among others. I recently had the privilege of co-moderating, along with Lucy B. Spalluto, MD, MPH, the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) and American Medical Association’s Understanding and Pursuing Health Equity: Opportunities to Take Action webinar. The webinar brought together several health equity experts from different institutions to discuss radiology’s role in pursuing health equity.

As radiologists, we are strategically positioned to lead collaborative efforts to address and overcome health disparities. Our involvement in the full continuum of patient care lends us an opportunity to step into the forefront of advancing health equity — and we have the skill set, technology and commitment to move this forward.

Whether we harness the technology of artificial intelligence (AI) or lean on support from our advocacy networks, we can work to eliminate the racial, socio-economic and geographical barriers to quality care. While this requires a multifaceted approach, some suggestions to consider include advocating for increased insurance coverage to improve access to care, utilizing AI-powered personalized care through patient outreach and care coordination, offering scheduling flexibility in our services, cost transparency and financial counseling, and leveraging radiology encounters to advance telehealth. Together, we can lead these efforts to bridge the disparities gap.

You can now access the full webinar recording on-demand and earn credits. In addition, the ACR offers other free resources to help you address health equity such as the September 2020 ACR Bulletin special issue on health equity and newly released PHM in Your Practice Podcast.

Together, we can lead the effort to reduce the health disparity gap, advance health equity and ensure high quality care for all.

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