‘Pink card’ program brings walk-in screening mammograms to vulnerable patients

A Boston-area provider has found success with a walk-in screening mammography program, bolstering access to its most vulnerable patient populations.

Massachusetts General Hospital’s academic breast imaging division launched its “Pink Card” program in November 2016. As part of the pilot, physicians handed some patients pink business cards during scheduled office visits reminding them they were due for a mammogram. Printed with clear information, the card was redeemable for a same-day walk-in appointment at one of three locations.

Among the more than 3,600 women who underwent screening at primary care or OB/GYN centers in the program, 19.9% used pink cards, the authors reported in JACR. These women were more likely to be covered by Medicaid and less likely to speak English as their primary language.

Co-author Gary X. Wang, MD, PhD, and colleagues at MGH’s Department of Radiology said their results reveal how removing logistical barriers can help improve care.

“By offering walk-in screening examinations that coincide with physician office visits in the same building, this program removes the need for additional dedicated screening visits,” they added. “In turn, this can reduce difficulties that arise from transportation challenges, competing priorities including other personal health care needs and caregiver responsibilities, and financial burdens incurred by taking time off work, barriers commonly encountered by racial/ethnic minorities.”

Despite wide support, many screening disparities remain tied to factors such as race/ ethnicity, socioeconomic status and physical location. With this in mind, the team launched their program at their suburban outpatient community breast imaging facility.

Physicians used their own discretion in handing out cards but received an electronic health reminder when a patient was due for screening. Up to four slots were reserved each day for walk-ins, which were ideally performed within 30 minutes of patients’ arrival.

Compared to women with prescheduled visits, card users were more likely to be Asian and black, while less likely to be up to date on biennial screening.

Our results suggest that even within a population of women who were able to overcome potential barriers to primary care and OB/GYN services, there were still vulnerable segments for which the Pink Card program enhanced screening access and engagement,” the authors noted.

Although their program had the advantage of a breast imaging center in the same building, Wang et al. said the same effort could be successful in off-site centers and other practices.