A team of women just created the world’s first comfortable mammogram in a city known for forgoing comfort for fashion with 71 percent of patients rating notably better comfort during their exams versus other systems
The world looks to Paris as an epicenter of fashion. Parisian women have long been considered on the cutting edge of couture, sacrificing comfort for innovative style. Perhaps less well known is that the “City of Lights” is an epicenter of technology innovation, with a keen eye on improving women’s health.
Just as some perceive the runway to favor fashion over comfort, many women consider mammography to be an important, yet painful exam. Some women approach scheduling their mammograms with dread, even causing one in four women to avoid mammograms because of fear of pain and anxiety. That’s why a team of female engineers and designers in Paris came together to design new mammography technology – technology that they would want to be scanned on.
Inside GE Healthcare’s imaging technology center in the town of Buc located just outside of Paris, Industrial Designer Aurelie Boudier brought a team of women together to bring their unique insights as patients to answer one question: how do we design a more comfortable mammogram? Their vision would eventually turn into a new mammogram unlike any others, one designed specifically with comfort in mind.
Understanding patient experience blends science and empathy.
Beginning in 2014, engineers, designers and marketers surveyed radiologists, doctors and technicians in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to gather clinical insights about what they expect from a mammography system. They then turned their attention to the patient experience with the hopes of answering one key question: why do some women avoid mammograms?
The response was overwhelming. Not only did these radiologists, doctors and technicians say they want an easy-to-maneuver product with great image quality and low dose, but they also wanted a new kind of mammogram that made their patients more comfortable the moment they walk in the door. The survey results emphasized that the fear of pain and discomfort and the fear of getting results influenced many women to choose not to get a mammogram. Yet it is known that annual screening can help find cancer at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful and therefore reduces a patient’s risk of dying from the disease by 25-30 percent or more.
If a mammogram could be more comfortable, perhaps more women wouldn’t avoid their annual screening appointment.
Reshaping the Mammography Experience
Boudier and her team wanted to design a mammogram for all the women in their lives. They used an empathy-centered design approach to create a whole new look and feel to the mammography experience, resulting in the Senographe Pristina™. Boudier instinctively knew the system needed to have clean lines and be comfortable to reduce anxiety from the moment a woman walks through the door of the exam room.
“We know that compression can be painful,” Boudier says. “This device is more comfortable and the design helps improve patient comfort during compression. Because the detector is thinner with rounded corners, patients say that it’s more comfortable because there’s less coming in contact with their bare skin.”
The design also changes the way a patient is positioned. Instead of women projecting their stress on handles, grabbing them too firmly which tenses pectoral muscles and has an impact on image quality, they can lean comfortably on the armrests, relaxing the muscles to simplify positioning, compression and image acquisition.
“When you sit in a room awaiting your mammogram, women look at each other with a solemn understanding,” says Claire Goodliffe, one of the members involved in designing the technology. “You can feel the tension in the room. We know we’re about to have an exam that could change our lives. How reassuring would it be to create an exam experience that humanizes the mammography system and can lessen that anxiety?”
To humanize the Senographe Pristina experience, the exam room is designed to be more sensual, using LED lights to convey a feeling of relaxation, encouraging patients to forget they’re in a procedure room in a hospital or clinic.
“We know that if one woman has had a bad experience with mammography, she will communicate that to her peers,” Boudier says. “The reverse is also true. If a woman has a positive experience, and her fears are addressed and the procedure is made as agreeable as possible, she will spread a positive message among her peers and come back for future screenings.”
Seeing A Difference in Patient Satisfaction
Healthcare providers with this new system are seeing a difference in patient satisfaction. Results from patient surveys prove that the new design is providing a more comfortable exam. Eighty three percent of patients rated their experience with Senographe Pristina as better than with previous systems and 71 percent rated notably better comfort during their exams versus other systems.
“Finally, someone came through and listened to all the comments that we’ve been hearing and actually created a machine that is accommodating to our patients,” says Adela Porro, Lead Mammographer Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the first user of the system in the United States.