Highlands-Cashiers Hospital strives for advanced and accessible care

By Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal

There may be no more beautiful time on the Plateau than spring and summer, and after over a year of pandemic stress and isolation, we are likely to see things we never noticed before — wildflowers growing by the road, a stately tree, and more — that nevertheless have always been there.

You could say the same thing about Highlands-Cashiers Hospital as well. From the day we opened our doors nearly 70 years ago, we’ve been the mainstay of care for this community, but over the decades we were also always evolving in response to ever-changing community needs.

There are two enhancements here at the hospital that I’m excited to tell the community about, because they both translate to enhanced care for our patients. So much of staying a viable and innovative healthcare facility is offering the latest and best in medical technology to patients, whether that’s for screening, records management, or surgical purposes, and keeping up with delivering care in a way that allows more and more individuals to easily access it.

The technological advancement we’ve adopted is 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis. This cutting-edge screening technology enables us not only to detect more cancerous tumors in the breast, but to find them earlier, and we all know that with any type of cancer, the earlier your physician can find it, the better in terms of your prognosis.

What makes 3D mammography superior to traditional mammography? In a word, depth. A standard mammogram shows an image that is flat, for the radiologist to review. A 3D mammogram done with this new technology, however, produces many images within just a few seconds, and they appear as a series of thin slices.

These much more finely detailed, single slice images allow our team to see much more than they would viewing a less nuanced image. This considerably enhanced visibility allows for greater image clarity, allowing the clinician to find cancers that previously would have been concealed by overlapping breast tissue.

Because 3D mammography allows us to better see a patient’s breast tissue, the need to schedule “callback mammograms” — when a concern must be investigated in a second mammogram — is greatly reduced. In turn, women don’t have to go through the added stress that a callback fuels, take more time for another appointment, or incur additional costs that another screening requires.

This breast screening “gold standard” is recommended no matter what a woman’s breast density (differing amounts of three types of tissue found in the breast) is.

I am very happy we have purchased this important technology, and readers can get more information on 3D mammograms by calling the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Radiology Department at 828.526.1467. The number to call if you wish to schedule an appointment is 828.883.5021.

I urge women in our community never to put off scheduling their mammograms, but this past year has been exceptionally challenging, I realize. If you’re overdue for your mammogram because of the pandemic, please make an appointment today.

The other new benefit for our patients that we have just begun to offer is expanded telehealth and scheduling options with Mission My Care Now. Patients can now choose between virtual care, telehealth visits, or scheduled same-day appointments at our bricks and mortar walk-in clinic, all of which mean less time spent in the waiting room. Patients can get the care they need through whatever platform is best for them.

We also created an online tool to help you determine which care option is best for you. By clicking HERE, simply choose the “Find the right care” link from the Virtual Care Options box. After answering a few questions and pinpointing your care need, the best option for you is recommended.

You can access care through:

  • Highlands-Cashiers Hospital’s Emergency Room (or any Mission Health ER)
  • Scheduling a telehealth visit online through the link above with one of our My Care Now providers; this is a real-time face-to-face video visit that’s billed to insurance and is offered at the same cost as an in-office visit
  • Making an appointment to visit one of our regional My Care Now locations in person — you can either walk into the location, or schedule an appointment online
  • For linking to our online Mission Virtual Clinic click HERE, and answer more detailed questions to get a rapid written response (within an hour) back from a provider; the provider may also offer to live chat online if they need to ask additional questions, but no video is involved in this option; this service is $25 if the provider is able to diagnose

The pandemic also pushed everyone to become comfortable with providing and using telemedicine/telehealth services, and now that we have built this momentum, we’re intent on offering services through as many platforms as we can. This way, getting care can be more hassle-free and less economically stressful — in other words, patient-centered and patient-friendly.

Our intention at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital is to make your care as advanced, expertly executed, and easily accessed as possible. Through offerings like 3D mammogram technology and an array of choices for receiving urgent care, we are making that intention a reality. In order to continue to provide extraordinary services and care to this community, we remain ever-mindful of complementing our services with these types of innovative offerings. 

  • Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.

Leave a Reply