Friday, July 4, 2014
More healthcare begets more health costs and less health. Tests detect symptoms that trigger treatment, but more often than not fail to contribute to health. Apple’s newly announced HealthKit promises to facilitate increased surveillance of personal health statistics and to integrate the data with the health industry. If recent history is a guide, more data will simply mean more inappropriate interventions, greater expense and further deterioration of public health. More public interaction and scrutiny is needed to keep the public safe from the health industry and to hold doctors to their pledge to do no harm.
Breast, Prostate and Pelvic Exams Lead to Costly, Harmful, Unnecessary Interventions
In the last two years, major studies have found that frequent breast exams, prostate tests and pelvic exams cause more harm than good. The surgery, followup procedures and treatments that the screening tests trigger are worse than the cancers that went unnoticed under more relaxed scrutiny. The bottom line is that the information gathered from screening was not sufficient to produce appropriate, measured treatment. Patients were harmed without benefit and the health industry was compromised by increased profits from inappropriate tests and treatments. Doctors routinely convinced themselves of the value of routine exams that they performed to yield excessive false positives that resulted in unnecessary biopsies or disfiguring surgery. Those flawed exams, tests and procedures also contributed substantially to the profitability of their practices. Patients may have inadvertently been harmed, but the doctors knew that they benefited.
The Health Industry Pursues Profitable Tests and Treatment, not Causes and Cures
I was astounded a few years ago to read an article in the biomedical literature by a researcher who bemoaned the lack of interest in understanding the causes of diseases and the pursuit of cures. Public and private funds were only spent on patent-protected tests and treatments. I watched as the development and testing of fecal transplants demonstrated a safe and effective treatment for numerous diseases, and yet this approach was tracked down and caged by the health industry. I think broad use of this approach could save billions of health dollars, but there is no patent protection and minimal profit, so the approach was stiffled. The efficacy of fecal transplants also points directly at damaged gut flora (and antibiotics) as the cause of many diseases. Where is the public forum to discuss the use of public funds to promote approaches that are safe, effective, cheap, but without potential for proprietary exploitation? What will happen to simple cures, such as resistant starch and probiotics with Clostridium butyricum?
Is HealthKit Personal Data for Personal or Corporate Gain?
Will there be mechanisms for individuals to contribute their HealthKit data to large scale public health experiments to determine simple lifestyle, dietary and exercise approaches that can replace expensive and destructive pharmaceutical-based health industry approaches? HealthKit provides the potential to wrest health from the health industry. We will see if there is an app for that.