Twenty-two–year evolution of a Medical Breast Service: Filling the important gaps between breast surgery and medical oncology



      Historically, surgeons have provided subspecialty breast care. The development of a robust medical breast program in a large academic center staffed by trained primary care providers initially showed a shift in care of benign breast disease away from surgeons. In this review, we aim to revisit the practice after 20 years. Medical patients are defined as patients with symptomatic issues (eg, pain or lump), those at increased risk (due to family history, genetic mutations, or benign atypical lesions), or survivors in need of long-term care.


      Data for this review were collected retrospectively from an internal outpatient appointment dataset. The sample included data for 3 staff breast surgeons (2.6 clinical full-time employees [FTEs]), 3 staff medical breast physicians (2.4 clinical FTEs), and 2 medical breast advanced practice providers (2.0 clinical FTEs). Provider visit types were grouped into 1 of 4 categories (new medical, established medical, new surgical, and established surgical) in order to review the percentages of outpatient visits by provider group.


      Before the institution of the Medical Breast Service, 75% of breast surgeons’ outpatient visits were for either new or established medical issues. Our most recent analyses show that between 2013 and 2017 breast surgeons averaged 19% of surgical outpatient visits for medical issues. Higher surgical outpatient visits have resulted in higher surgical volume, increased surgical productivity and time spent in the operating room, and decreased time to treatment at our institution. Both surgical and medical breast providers can be added and become rapidly productive with focus on their respective areas of expertise.


      The Medical Breast Service has met its expectations in providing access for symptomatic patients, personalized care for those at risk, and attentive care to long-term survivors. The program has allowed for surgeons to focus on surgical outpatient visits, driving surgical volume and productivity, and streamlining care.
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