Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN
In an ideal world, scanxiety could be alleviated by immediate test results. However, test results also need someone qualified to interpret them and explain their implications. When scans show no evidence of disease, or a blood test is within normal limits, the phone calls are easy to make. It’s a different story when the scans or tests are abnormal or indicate disease progression. In these cases, face-to-face conversations about treatment options are usually best.
So, what can healthcare providers do to reduce scanxiety? Some oncology practices schedule patients for a clinic visit on the same day a scan or test is performed. Of course, this approach only works when there is collaboration between the imaging or laboratory department and oncology providers. “The test results are not back yet” are words no patient wants to hear on a follow-up visit.
Patients who have scans and tests performed in their hometowns need to be informed that test results may or may not be available on the same day. These patients should be instructed to call their oncology providers to obtain results rather than wait for a call with the results.
Every oncology facility should have procedures that reduce the likelihood that patients will “fall through the cracks” and not be followed up. This can happen when return calls to patients go unanswered. The resulting “phone tag” is frustrating for patients and healthcare providers alike.
After-hours calls are particularly challenging, as they are often placed or received via personal cellphones. One option is to block or hide personal cellphone numbers; however, patients may ignore or decline these calls since the callers are not identified. Another option is the Doximity Dialer, an app that allows healthcare providers to call patients without revealing their personal cellphone numbers. Patients see an office or clinic number instead. The app allows healthcare providers to call patients at any US number, choose the caller ID that appears, and send return calls to an office or clinic.
The app can be downloaded for iPhone at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play.