The COVID-19 pandemic is confronting healthcare institutions around the world with unprecedented clinical and operational challenges. This is an extraordinary situation as they struggle to care for increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, but also continue to care for other patients. The impact of the pandemic is also being felt in breast care. Although not directly related, it can have its effects, but in different ways than one might think. Fearing the risk of an infection, many women cancel their mammography appointments or even rescheduled chemo cycles with an unpredictable effect on future breast cancer case numbers. In many areas of the world, screening programs have come to a complete stand still. Mammography departments in hospitals face completely new challenges like having to change routines and workflows to comply with the new sanitary standards, triage their appointments or introduce new diagnostic methods like tele-mammography consultations. Our customers are facing challenging times. We, as Siemens Healthineers, will stand by their side to support them and their patients.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on breast imaging industry is immense. While some countries have almost stopped their breast screening and diagnostics, other hospitals around the globe are prioritizing and only treating patients that need urgent immediate care. At the same time, all healthcare providers try to implement stricter infection control rules and measures to protect patients, as well as staff. Social distancing measures are being put into place in mammography settings and working times are changing drasticallyi.
With fewer patients, many breast radiologists are being asked to support other areas in healthcare. Others are now focusing more on academic work and are using work time to make progress on research topics, while many are using the time to participate in virtual educational concepts like webinars or virtual clinical conferences on further developments in mammography, such as Artificial Intelligence, tomosynthesis or contrast enhanced mammography.
Role of AI in Breast Imaging
The enormous decline in breast cancer screening is a trend that has experts concerned about an enormous demand and an explosion in more severe diagnoses, when restrictions are lifted. Once screening programs pick up again, we are sure to see further strain on mammography departments, which were often struggling to keep up with demand even before the pandemic. In some regions, radiologists are being asked to gain a better understanding of Artificial Intelligenceii . With increasing demand, Artificial Intelligence solutions hold promise in helping accelerate decisions and reduce workload. There are solutions on the market that are proven to automatically pre-select exams using AI to significantly reduce the breast cancer screening reading workloadiii. You can find out more about such solutions and strategies to reduce reading time in this whitepaper.
At Siemens Healthineers, our heart beats for our customers. This includes being a trusted partner and providing solutions that have a positive impact on the future. We can think of no other time than now, where this is more than important to stand side by side our customers.