We have all had physicians suggest an x-ray, blood test or other screening test during an office visit. It is important for patients to have a personal physician who they can consult for routine health matters. However, increasingly entrepreneurs are offering direct-to-consumer health screenings without visiting your doctor.
Life Line Screening has 60 teams traveling the lower 48 states in mobile medical clinics (buses) conducting screening services. They park the modified buses with two exam rooms in places such as church parking lots, community centers, senior centers and other civic building locations. The firm uses ultrasound and blood tests to screen for conditions such as carotid artery stenosis, abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease among numerous other screenings. The cost is $149 and up depending on the services performed.
Even if I do not see my doctor every year it is a good idea to have an annual record of my lab results. Once a year I order Wellness #3 Extreme Blood and Urine Test Panel from Walk-in Lab to track my blood chemistry from one year to the next. I have all the yearly results archived going back about 12 years. Whenever I visit a physician, I give them the latest results. This has helped on several occasions when my doctors would have otherwise ordered expensive lab tests. Tests costing hundreds of dollars at a clinic (thousands at a hospital) cost me $152 with a coupon code. Quest Diagnostics has a location inside a Walmart a mile up the road from where I live. I can just swing by for a blood draw and I’m done in 15 minutes.
Advanced Body Scan has offices in Plano, Texas and Oklahoma City. The firm offers heart and lung scanning services using 4DCT technology through Groupon. The current deal is $196 for two people, although I have seen prices as low as $68 for one person. They also offer a full body scan with radiology interpretation for around $1,200. A family member got a full body CT scan from a mobile scanning service after having abdominal and back pain his doctor dismissed as back strain. It found kidney stones.
Both Apple and Fitbit sell wearable devices to monitor blood flow, heart beats, cardiac rhythms, etc. This wearable technology tracks heart health in real time. Some devices even provide miniature electrocardiograms that can alert the wearer of potentially deadly atrial fibrillation. Wearable tech like these devices all had to go through FDA clearance before it could be sold to the public. In the case of Apple it’s cleared by the FDA for “informational use only.”
The article Heartbeat-Tracking Technology Raises Patients’ and Doctors’ Worries discusses potential false positives and unnecessary physician visits by the worried-well, resulting from pings the wearable devices pick up. Experts interviewed said the technology is moving faster than the health care system’s ability to use the data. The following is a quote:
“It’s a conundrum, and a consequential one, for the health care system. Tens of millions of people are armed with these devices, and if even a small fraction of those get a ping, it could mean much more care and costs for the system.”
Here is the deal. In our top-down health care system, none of the services I’ve discussed above are really recommended by the medical establishment. Public health experts believe when asymptomatic patients pay cash for health screenings, they’re wasting society’s health care dollars. They don’t view medical screenings as a consumer good for peace of mind. Advocates worry that false positives waste both money and doctors’ time that could have gone to treat sick people. For instance,
I’ve read articles saying ultrasound screenings in church parking lots are of no medical value. (Except peace of mind and catching the occasional aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease or high blood pressure early). The first time I went to see my new primary care doctor he seemed both amazed and amused by the handful of lab tests I gave him.
Our society is at a point in history when technology can help patients track health status, transmit health metrics to their doctors electronically and communicate with their doctors my email, Zoom or telephone. What consumers really need is a way to easily share data from their direct-to-consumer tests, screenings and wearable devices with direct care physicians willing to work with patients for low cash fees rather than through rigid office visits.