“There won’t be any point doing screening if you’re doing testing. [Testing means] you’re picking up issues of ill health immediately.”
Julia Manning, Chief Executive, 2020 health
Corporate private healthcare schemes stand to gain more from early intervention than they do from genetic screening or prevention.
A lot of attention has been given both to genetic screening, to predict risk of developing a condition, and to prevention, to reduce or remove that risk. It’s a seductive promise – but does reality trail behind the hype?
Though screening is likely to become more accurate over the next ten years, the risk of a false positive or negative remains. Predicting that a tumour will develop may become easier; predicting where it will develop may prove more difficult. Then there’s the cost of providing screening to a whole workforce. It could cost more than the impact of treating the disease.
So where should a business direct their investment? On broad-reach screening, which comes at an expensive total cost? On risk reduction, which depends on behaviour change? Or on preventative treatment which is expensive, and may not be necessary anyway?
These options all have their place, but what about early intervention enabled by technology and low-cost, high-accuracy testing?
Moorfields Eye Hospital has worked with Google Deep Mind on remote retina scans – offering a consultant-level eye assessment with instant results, in a lunch hour. In ten years’ time, imagine being able to enter a booth in the office, or on the high street, scan your retinas, then get results in real time.
You could get a consultant level eye assessment and a specialist referral in your lunch hour.
As technology like this becomes less expensive, we should see earlier diagnosis, leading to better outcomes and lower treatment costs.
Note: Health Insurance is designed to cover problems that you’re experiencing at the moment, so it generally doesn’t cover preventative treatment or screening tests, including genetic tests. However, AXA PPP healthcare does provide some essential screening services through Proactive Health and Realise Health Plans as well as a discount on BHI and Nuffield Health Screening where included as part of a private health plan.
This article is part of the Future of Health series of articles and examines possible health solutions for the future based on our experience of developments in the healthcare sector today.