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An Innovative Approach: Reducing diagnostic wait times to improve the quality of breast cancer care

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An Innovative Approach: Reducing diagnostic wait times to improve the quality of breast cancer care

The diagnostic phase of care is an extremely anxiety-provoking and stressful experience for the potential breast cancer patient and family. This year alone, another 1,000 women in our region will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

In March 2011, I led a multidisciplinary team of breast cancer specialists at The Ottawa Hospital Women’s Breast Health Centre on a new initiative to improve breast care by setting up a Rapid Diagnosis and Support (RADS) Program, aimed at reducing diagnostic wait times and decreasing the fragmentation of care for the potential breast cancer patient.

A nurse navigator was assigned to coordinate and expedite diagnostic imaging workup and pathological diagnosis for women, all while offering psychological and navigational support.

A prospective one-year trial was recently completed on 211 consecutive patients and the results showed a significant reduction in wait times to biopsy, pathological diagnosis and MRI. Patients can now have the results of the entire diagnostic spectrum within 7 days, as compared to 5 weeks previously. In addition, the consult wait times and surgical wait times have decreased by 60%. Patients in this program are seeing a surgeon in a median wait time of 5 days from the date of diagnosis.

This innovative service delivery model, the RADS program, can serve as launch pad for further improvements in diagnostic care and can be shared with other breast care centres in Canada and beyond as an example of best practices. The Women’s Breast Health Centre team is now offering this program to an increasing number of patients and is the new standard of care for patients at The Ottawa Hospital.

 

Angel Arnaout, MD, MSc, FRCS(C), FACS
Breast Surgical Oncologist, Division of General Surgery, The Ottawa Hospital
Clinician Investigator, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa

 
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