A More Empathetic View on Health
For more than 50 years, GE has been working to find new and better ways to detect breast cancer. Initially, the company focused on improving image quality, making large investments in digital and 3-D technologies.
More recently, we have worked to encourage more women to come in for their annual mammograms. Knowing early detection reduces a woman’s risk of dying from the disease by 25–30%1 , GE wanted to provide a more comfortable patient experience by transforming the tool that has long been seen as the standard for early cancer detection.
For many women, the main reasons they avoid mammograms are the pain associated with the exam and the fear of a potential diagnosis. With this insight, GE looked to first improve the examination environment with SensorySuite, a spa-like exam room where women are able to choose sounds, scents and imagery, such as seascapes or waterfalls, to create a more pleasant atmosphere. This kind of experience leaves patients feeling more relaxed and more likely to adhere to annual screenings.
Encourage more women to get their regular mammogram screenings
A spa-like exam room where women can choose sounds, scents and imagery — such as seascapes or waterfalls — to create a more pleasant atmosphere for their mammograms
A mammography system designed to be more attuned to a patient’s feelings and fears
Building off the success of its SensorySuite solution, we turned our attention to redesigning the mammography system, evolving the technology to help improve patient comfort. We challenged our female product managers, engineers, designers, marketers and clinical experts to use their personal experience as patients, in combination with their professional expertise, to create a product that not only functions better but also is more attuned to what a woman needs when getting screened, which is to be reassured, not intimidated.
The team started by conducting interviews, with more than 1,200 radiologists, technologists and patients sharing what they thought would create a better, more comfortable screening experience. Most said improvements to the platform and handles would make a big difference.
Better patient experience and improved sales performance3
In a normal exam, the technologist places the patient’s breast on a platform, where the patient stretches out her arms and supports herself by holding onto handles. Patients saw an opportunity to change the platform. Angular in shape, its sharp edges sometimes poked them in the ribs, causing discomfort. Radiologists, meanwhile, took issue with the handles. Grasping them caused women to flex their pectoral muscles, which, aside from being uncomfortable, can impact image quality.
Taking these learnings into account, GE designers configured a new machine — one that would meet the needs of each audience. The result was the Senographe Pristina.TM
Groundbreaking on many levels, Pristina’s updated platform features rounded corners and a thinner image detector made of carbon fiber composite, which is softer and warmer to the touch than the material used on traditional systems. Pristina’s design also changes how patients are positioned. Instead of projecting their stress onto handles by grabbing them too firmly, women can now lean comfortably on armrests, relaxing their muscles to simplify positioning, compression and image acquisition.
“Finally somebody listened to all the comments that we’ve been hearing and created a machine that is accommodating to our patients and the staff.”
Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital
Finally, the system features an option to use an industry-first, patient-assisted compression remote control device. Called the Pristina Dueta, the device turns patients into more active participants in their exams, enabling the patient — with the help of a technologist — to set the breast compression at a level that feels right for her, thereby potentially reducing perceived discomfort while still maintaining image quality.
Feedback on Pristina has been universally positive, with more than 80% of patients saying their experience with it was better than with a traditional mammography system 3. And for those who use the Pristina Dueta, four out of five patients say it increased their exam comfort 4. Additionally, since Pristina was introduced, GE’s share in the product space has grown in both Europe and the U.S.
Pristina: Making patients more comfortable
Pristina has been a true success story, demonstrating the value of a more empathetic approach to healthcare and paving the way for other patient-focused solutions. It also highlights the increasingly important role women are playing in global healthcare, especially when their unique insights are the foundation for transforming a technology created to save their lives.