The Reading Room

In case you missed it: Need a mammogram? Try Nordstrom.

Shaun Lillard, Imaging Performance Partnership

Last week our colleagues at the Care Transformation Center posted an article on Northshore University HealthSystem’s longstanding partnership with a local Nordstrom’s department store. 

For 15 years, Northshore has provided screening mammograms for local consumers, an agreement that has proven mutually-beneficial for both Northshore and Nordstrom.

Over the life of the partnership, Northshore has demonstrated its understanding of the local population’s demands and the financial value it provides to its partner, Nordstrom. Patients find the arrangement to be incredibly convenient, and Northshore is able to provide screening mammography to 8,000 patients annually at the location. The partnership is truly a win-win.

Cabell Jonas and Jordan Stone, Care Transformation Center

When NorthShore University HealthSystem noticed an alarming incidence of advanced-stage breast cancer in their service area, they convened a focus group to figure out why women were skipping preventative screening mammography.

Turns out, women were put off by a trip to a clinical site—including the hospital and local imaging centers. Rather than try to overcome resistance to established care sites, NorthShore decided to meet women in a convienient, non-clinical setting.

In their case, the Nordstrom store.

Incorporate screenings into the broader consumer experience

For 15 years, NorthShore, a Chicago-based provider, has been conducting mammograms for 8,000 women annually inside a second-floor suite of a Nordstrom store.

“We asked patients, 'If a mammogram was available in a more convenient, non-clinical setting, would you get one?' The response: Absolutely."

As a result of the unique and convenient location, preventative screening mammograms have increased substantially, with a corresponding decrease in advanced-stage breast cancer diagnoses.

Operating the Nordstrom mammography site benefits both parties. NorthShore catches clinical problems sooner, giving patients a better chance for a positive outcome. The system also benefits from any downstream service referrals that might be needed, such as specialist consults or interventional care.

For Nordstrom, the mammography suite increases patient traffic to the store, positively impacting sales. Interestingly, many friends and families schedule mammograms back-to-back as part of a planned “shopping day,” because 90% of visitors to the Nordstrom mammography suite are already regular users of NorthShore services.

Know your consumer and highlight the value for the non-traditional site

NorthShore’s market has a large proportion of commercially insured, affluent individuals. The Nordstrom mammography suite is situated in an area of town that has high-end stores catering to affluent women over 30—the target demographic previously skipping preventive mammograms.

Of course, retail stores won’t always be the right service site. Other health systems have seen success siting clinical services within community sites such as churches, conducting screenings in barbershops, or even offering door-to-door health screenings in high-risk areas.

The key is knowing your target demographic, understanding their lifestyle patterns, and meeting them in places they already frequent.

In addition to being conveniently located, the mammography suite operates very quickly and efficiently—an important factor for consumers more interested in a day of shopping than an elongated medical appointment. With three machines each operated by one or two NorthShore technologists, patients can be in-and-out of screenings in under 15 minutes.

"As far as we know, we’re the only health system with a partnership like this one. It’s been so successful; we wonder why others haven’t done it."

Patients can also receive bone density scans within the same appointment, with all results routed directly to NorthShore’s system-wide EHR and read remotely by radiology subspecialists. In the event that patients require follow-up imaging or physician services, NorthShore staff can promptly refer them into the network.

While the clinical benefits of convenient mammography screenings are apparent for the patient and provider, NorthShore had to demonstrate clear, ongoing value to Nordstrom to sustain the partnership. To prove value, NorthShore conducted a study early on in the partnership to determine how much patients spent shopping before or after the screening.

On average, patients receiving mammograms spent $400 in Nordstrom on the day of the screening—a substantial benefit to the retailer’s business.

More from the Imaging Performance Partnership

Looking for more on unique employer partnerships with imaging programs? Register for our 2014 national meeting series, Unlocking Imaging’s Value in the New Health Care Economy, or contact me at to set up a research call on the topic.