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The Effect of Immediate Reading of Screening Mammograms on Medical Care Utilization and Costs after False-Positive Mammograms

Objective. To investigate whether decreased anxiety associated with immediate reading of screening mammograms resulted in lower downstream utilization and costs among women with false-positive mammograms.

Data Sources/Study Setting. We identified 1,140 women,=age 40, with false-positive mammograms and 12-month follow-up after participating in a trial of immediate versus batch mammographic reading between February 1999 and January 2001 in a multispecialty group managed care practice in Massachusetts.

Study Design. We determined downstream utilization and costs for study participants by immediate and batch reading status.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods. Demographic, comorbidity, and medical care utilization data were obtained from survey data and computerized medical record databases. Costs included direct medical costs, patient time, travel and copayments, and additional professional time costs associated with immediate reading.

Principal Findings. Immediate reading cost an additional $4.40 per screening mammogram. Women with immediate readings had more follow-up mammograms (781 versus 750, p=.018) and fewer diagnostic ultrasounds (176 versus 219, p=.016) than women with batch readings. Costs to the health plan for breast care were approximately 10 percent higher for immediate readings in multivariable analyses (p=.046), but no significant difference was seen in total societal costs (p=.072).

Conclusions. Immediate mammogram reading was associated with increased costs to the health plan and changes in follow-up radiology procedures. These costs must be examined alongside beneficial effects of immediate reading.


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