Mobile-Mammography Debate: Lifesaver Or Moneymaker?

By Marni Jameson
Orlando Sentinel.

Like many working moms, Hope Bott of Orlando usually put her family’s health needs ahead of her own, said the wife and mother of three boys.

So when a mobile-mammography bus pulled up to her workplace in March, she got on board.

Bott, 38, an operations analyst for Pepsi, has a family history of breast cancer, so she wanted to get tested.

Five days after her screening, she got a letter recommending more testing.

She was referred to a Florida Hospital doctor, who ordered another mammogram, an ultrasound, an MRI and, ultimately, a biopsy.

Three anxiety-ridden weeks later, Bott got her results. “Thankfully, it was benign,” she said.

Although she didn’t enjoy the worrying, she’s grateful she had the testing

Bott became part of the health-care trend toward meeting patients where they are.

Throughout Central Florida, more mobile health-screening services are rolling to businesses and community centers, where health professionals check patients for breast cancer, heart problems, stroke risk and more.

Those behind the programs say they save lives and improve access.

But some health analysts argue that all that screening really isn’t necessary and that the vehicles are a way for hospitals to troll for patients, boost physician referrals and sell unneeded diagnostic services.

The mobile services offer accessibility and convenience, which more patients want, said Marla Silliman, senior vice president of women’s services at Florida Hospital, where she oversees a women’s health bus that offers mammography, heart screenings and bone-density testing.

“Employers like the mobile services because they want to provide preventive services to employees without a lot of downtime,” Silliman said.

A preliminary review of nonprofit hospitals’ tax records, which reflect their spending, has shown that the number of hospitals investing in mobile-screening vehicles nationwide has increased dramatically in recent years, said Gerard Anderson, professor of health economics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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