MMPC Goes With Digital Mammography

February 11, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Digital mammography is coming to Michigan Medical PC, the only Kent County non-hospital health care business so far to offer the cutting-edge service.

The machine will be located at a building shared by MMPC and Spectrum Health at 4069 Lake Drive SE, near East Paris Avenue, and is expected to start serving patients this month, said MMPC CEO Ted Inman.

Saint Mary’s Health Care, which today opened its southwest location near M-6, also will offer digital mammography, said Vice President Micki Benz.

Spectrum Health expects to complete installation of digital mammography at all of its mammography sites this month, said spokesman Bruce Rossman. The Betty Ford Diagnostic Care Services’ Rockford site installed West Michigan’s first digital mammography machine in November. Nine additional units will be installed by the end of February at the Betty Ford Diagnostic Breast Center at the Blodgett Campus, at the Butterworth Campus, the Kentwood Center and the South Pavilion.

“When digital was introduced, it became pretty apparent it was going to be what women ultimately would demand,” said Inman. “Clinically, there’s still only studies saying that in a small subset of women there will be this big differentiation. The fact is, if you’re a woman, you don’t want to be that one it could have helped, but not have had it done.”

Inman said the doctors’ group performs about 8,000 mammograms a year. While many of the clients are MMPC patients, the service is available to everyone, he said.

Digital mammography machines cost about $350,000, compared to about $70,000 for film mammography machines, Inman said. But shorter appointments allow for greater patient volumes and he said that should help to defray the price.

Dr. Terri Osborne, MMPC’s medical director of imaging services, said the biggest change patients will notice is a shorter appointment time.

“The mammogram is done pretty much the same way as the current mammogram,” said Osborne, an internal medicine physician. “You go in, you get undressed, and the exact same thing you would do now. The difference is, just like a digital camera, the image is acquired immediately.”

That eliminates waiting time while film is developed and the technician decides whether a retake is warranted, she said. Plus, “If there’s less retakes, there’s less radiation.”

She said studies have shown that digital mammography provides better images in women with dense breasts, in women younger than 50, and in women who haven’t had periods for a year.

Other changes are behind the scenes. Digital mammography images can be sent over the Internet like any digital picture, Osborne said, for quick second opinions. The image can be magnified, reduced or enhanced for a better view.

The digital mammography image is more compatible with electronic medical records, which are poised to become more common, Osborne said.

“That will be a big thing. These images will end up right in the patient’s chart,” she said. 

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