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Unique breast health screening opportunity opens in Milford

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MammogramNow in Milford, Delaware

Business leaders and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce gathers for a ribbon cutting ceremony April 20 to celebrate the opening of MammogramNow in Milford at the Walmart Superstore. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CDCC

MILFORD – Artificial intelligence and breast health care services are colliding for a unique retail offering at the Walmart in Milford. 

The nation’s first-ever outpatient mammography screening services located in a retail setting are now available on a walk-in basis thanks to a partnership between MammogramNow, Delaware Imaging Network, Walmart and RadNet

“This is the first breast screening operation in a large department store like a Walmart in the country. . . Please use the service. It’s walk-in, it’s convenient and it could save your life,” RadNet National Director of Screening Networks and Population Health Strategy Timothy Merchant said during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the superstore on April 20 hosted by the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce (CDCC).

The RadNet pilot program will eventually be made available in Phoenix, Arizona, and Hanford, California, as well, according to a company announcement in late 2023. An agreement between Walmart and RadNet opens the door for similar programs at more retail locations. Walmart operates more than 4,600 stores in America.

Patients seeking out breast screenings at Milford’s MammogramNow will benefit from a mix of local professionals and artificial intelligence technology from RadNet’s subsidiary DeepHealth, promoting “. . . an improved level of screening performance and promotes earlier detection,” according to the company’s website. 

“We believe RadNet currently performs close to 5% of all mammograms in the United States annually, and the pilot with Walmart is designed to provide even greater, convenient access for women, driving better compliance with annual breast cancer screening guidelines,” RadNet President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Howard Berger stated in a press release in December 2023. 

“The ability to offer leading-edge hardware, software and AI technologies in a non-traditional healthcare location, such as a highly-trafficked retail location like a Walmart Supercenter, could become a new paradigm for the future of consumer healthcare and preventative medicine,” he added.

DeepHealth, the artificial intelligence used at MammogramNow, was developed by Dr. Greg Sorensen and acts as another checkpoint for medical professionals to help detect cancer earlier. 

“After the patient is scanned, the radiologist is notified as to whether or not that mammogram is more suspicious,” Merchant told the Delaware Business Times. “To get to that point, we’ve trained our AI with millions of images.”

That training involved marking the photos with accurate diagnoses from doctors and patients across the country so the new digital technology can tell the differences in the variety of breast densities, health and other concerns. 

“You might think of AI as a second set of eyes that help the doctor,” Sorensen told DBT. 

He said the company has proven that “. . . doctors get better if they get help,” he added, equating the AI tools to spell check. 

“This adds consistency, but we know that sometimes you have to overwrite the spell check. The doctor is the final decider. Although the AI is good, the doctors are better. They can look at the old film, they can look at the history and know things the AI doesn’t know,” Sorensen told DBT. 

“This [technology] helps the doctor find the needle in the haystack more easily. . . The AI knows what cancer looks like, but it doesn’t know if we biopsied the suspicious area recently. The doctor would know we biopsied it [at some point], and maybe we don’t need to worry about it,” he continued.

According to Sorenson, the company has also trained the AI on what doctors should ignore to reduce unnecessary callbacks or recalls for patients. 

While the basic preventative screening is covered by all major insurances with no prescription or referral needed, an additional enhanced check is available for $40, offering patients a second opinion on the spot. 

“The reason that we charge $40 for a certain type of AI is because, for those women, the AI is doing something else for them – it’s offering another doctor. The AI helps guide the radiologist to a decision. But in the most suspicious cases, the AI will suggest a second doctor looks at the images,” Sorensen told DBT. 

The expanded services are a popular option for businesses which see the cost-effective nature of preventive care, he added. 

“One of the groups that has been the fastest to pick up on this are employers who self-insure. They know if they pick up the $40 fee, the early detection will save more money in care costs. We’ve done some modeling of the cost savings and it’s definitely a good investment,” he told DBT. 

In Milford, those flags are sent to a more experienced radiologist locally at the Delaware Imaging Network. 

Delaware Imaging Network, which has been in operation for more than 60 years and was already a RadNet-affiliated imaging center, is now also affiliated with the national company’s new MammogramNow location in the Milford superstore, helping ensure the program runs smoothly at the local level.

“We believe everyone deserves access to high-quality imaging, conveniently located where you shop. Our mission is to provide accessible, affordable, and exceptional mammography services to all. With cutting-edge technology and compassionate care, we’re committed to empowering individuals in their journey towards early detection and proactive breast health management by having a mammography center located inside Walmart. Because your health shouldn’t wait, and neither should quality care,” Delaware Imaging Network Director of Sales Joe Wujcik said in a press release after the ceremony.

The Milford location utilizes the 3D high-definition mammography screening system produced by Hologic which won the first-ever Coolest Thing Made in Delaware Contest hosted by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce earlier this year. 

“We use more of the Hologic systems than any other provider or hospital system in the country. We have hundreds and hundreds of these systems and they’re all the latest models,” Merchant told DBT. “The high-definition images work very well with the AI. They offer a very rich data set in the system with very high resolutions.”

According to Merchant, MammogramNow has offered preventative screens in Milford since December 2023.

“We’ve already detected breast cancer in patients who would not have gone to get their mammogram,” he said. “They said the only reason they did this was because it was easy and convenient for them. They would not have known they had a breast cancer concern otherwise.”

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