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Breast J. 2012 Jan-Feb;18(1):58-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01179.x. Epub 2011 Nov 20.

The addition of internists to a breast health program.

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1
Department of Medicine, Section of General Internal Medicine, Women's Health Unit, and Women's Health Interdisciplinary Research Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA. Tracy.Battaglia@bmc.org

Abstract

With the increases in complexity of care for breast health concerns, there is a growing need for efficient and effective clinical evaluation, especially for vulnerable populations at risk for poor outcomes. The Breast Health Center at Boston Medical Center is a multidisciplinary program, with internists providing care alongside breast surgeons, radiologists, and patient navigators. Using a triage system previously shown to have high provider and patient satisfaction, and the ability to provide timely care, patients are assigned to either a breast surgeon or internist. From 2007 to 2009, internists cared for 2,408 women, representing half of all referrals. Women served were diverse in terms of race (33% black, 30% Hispanic, 5% Asian), language (34% require language interpreter), and insurance status (51% had no insurance or public insurance). Most presented with an abnormal screen (breast examination 54% or imaging 4%) while the remainder were seen for symptoms such as pain (26%), non-bloody nipple discharge (4%), or risk assessment (7%). A majority of final diagnoses were made through clinical evaluation alone (n = 1,760, 73%), without the need for additional diagnostic imaging or tissue sampling; 9% (n = 214) received a benign diagnosis with the aid of breast imaging; 19% (n = 463) required tissue sampling. Only 4% went on to see a breast surgeon. Internists diagnosed 15 incident cancers with a median time to diagnosis of 19 days. Patient and provider satisfaction was high. These data suggest that a group of appropriately trained internists can provide quality breast care to a vulnerable population in a multidisciplinary setting. Replication of this model requires the availability of more clinical training programs for non-surgical providers.

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