Life-saving benefit brings mammograms to the office

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Mountain Medical operates a mobile clinic that brings mammograms to offices.

When Cynthia Birth, 43, got a routine mammogram in the parking lot outside her office it saved her life.

Birth’s employer, O.C. Tanner — a Salt Lake City-based HR company — contracts with a radiology group that performs mammograms at job sites using a van outfitted like a doctor’s office. The service is included as part of O.C. Tanner’s benefits plan; there’s no copay for employees to participate. When the van showed up to her office two years ago, Birth joined the rest of her female colleagues for what she thought would be a routine exam. It wasn’t.

“The results came back that I had tumors,” Birth says. “I was surprised and shocked. Last year’s scan showed I was clear.”

Mountain Medical, the company which operates the mammogram mobile, immediately offered to call the local hospital to have the tumors tested, Birth says. The hospital performed a biopsy and all the tumors came back malignant. Over the next year, Birth underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Today, she’s cancer free.

“They caught it early so I didn’t have to do chemo. I’ve heard that’s very damaging to your body and spirit, so I’m glad I didn’t have to do that,” Birth says. “I was super grateful that we caught it in time, all because of this benefit.”

Birth says the convenience of the mammogram mobile helped her receive a diagnosis faster.

“Working women are busy. There’s not a lot of time to make a doctor’s appointment,” Birth says. “The benefit of having [the mammogram mobile] come to work is that I can get it done on my break.”

Mobile health programs are not a common benefit; the Society for Human Resource Management says 31% of employers provide onsite health screening, down from 43% in 2015. But in Utah, around 100 companies are visited by Mountain Medical’s mammogram mobile, including American Express, Overstock.com, Nationwide insurance, ADP and 1-800 Contacts. The mammogram mobile also makes an annual visit to Salt Lake City Airport to conduct screenings for employees.

Mindi Cox, senior vice president of people at O.C. Tanner, says the company added Mountain Medical to its benefits plan to focus on preventative care. O.C. Tanner offers its 1,300 Salt Lake City employees high-deductible health plans and PPOs through Select Health and Regence Blue Cross. Cox says the company has been satisfied with these plans, but having comprehensive insurance doesn’t guarantee employees are going to access care.

“Unless people are using it, it’s not a benefit,” Cox says. “When we found [the mammogram mobile,] we were thinking of ways to make benefits easier to access for our people, and this fit the bill.”

Cox says O.C. Tanner is a major proponent of on-site care. In addition to the mammogram mobile, the company uses a service called Jet Dental, which sets up a dentist office in conference rooms so employees don’t need to take a day off to get their teeth cleaned. Another medical van visits O.C. Tanner to perform blood work.

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“When you can provide a level of access that makes preventative care so convenient that employees access it just for the experience, you’ll see long-term savings in quality of life, productivity and absenteeism,” Cox says.

Birth couldn’t agree more. The mammogram mobile is a major reason why she plans on staying at the company, she says.

“It just shows that they care about me as an individual [and they’re] investing in me,” Birth says. “It makes the relationship between the company and myself more personal.”

“The nice thing about going to the workplace is an appointment is just 20 minutes and they’re done,” says Mary Christensen, director of marketing and public relations for Mountain Medical. “There’s also a little positive peer pressure: if a woman gets it done because her coworkers have there’s something to be said for that.”

Mountain Medical started using the mobile benefit because it’s difficult for women in their state to access mammograms, Christensen says. In Utah, the screenings can only be performed at hospitals, which is a major inconvenience because of long wait times, she says. Mountain Medical found that many women were putting off screenings for this reason, so they decided to be proactive and bring mammograms to them.

“A lump can show up on a mammogram up to five years before you feel it and when you feel it, it’s too late,” Christensen says. “Early detection is key. You don’t have to lose your breast; you can get treatment.”

Mountain Medical is affiliated with Strategic Radiology, a national coalition of radiologists who work independent of hospitals and doctors. Christensen says the idea for the van came from a sister practice in Charlotte. The two practitioners worked together to roll out the mobile service in 2012, which comes equipped with the latest mammogram scanners, a changing room and reception desk. A retired freight line driver was hired to drive the Utah van.

About five years ago, Delta Airlines decided they wanted to expand the mammogram mobile benefit their employees received from Mountain Medical to other U.S. airports. The airline partnered with Strategic Medical, who coordinated with independent radiologists in Atlanta, Hibbing, Minn. and Orlando, Fla. to roll out mammogram mobiles at those airports.

“We are very excited to forge this relationship with a large international company like Delta,” says Dr. Arl Van Moore Jr., CEO of Strategic Radiology, in the company’s online announcement. “Lives will be saved because the convenience of mobile mammography means more women will be screened.”

Delta and Strategic Radiology plan to extend the benefit to more U.S. airports in the coming years, according to a release issued by the radiology group. The airline says the benefit helps ensure their employees take advantage of preventative care, something that isn’t easy when many of them are always on the go.

“Delta people are the backbone of the airline, so their health and wellness is a top priority for us,” says Vickie Strickland, director of health strategy and resources for Delta Airlines, in a company announcement. “The mobile mammography program plays an important role in helping us follow through with that commitment by providing quality care that is convenient for our employees.”

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