Where to Go for Information about Medical Screening Tests

Health journalist/watchdog Gary Schwitzer is among our heroes, and here’s another reason why. In a recent post on his HealthNewsReview.org, he championed the efforts of British physician/writer Margaret McCartney, who introduced a new resource for patients seeking information about their care.

“Private health screening tests are oversold and under-explained,” she wrote in a British newspaper that Schwitzer quoted. “Health screening can cause more harm than it prevents, so companies have a duty to provide full information to customers.”

With that, she described PrivateHealthScreening.org, explaining that frustration and anger led her and a few doctor colleagues to establish the website to share information about screening tests and help people direct their thinking in making decisions whether or not to have them.

McCartney reported that one of this group of doctors, a neurologist, went to his local church for something called a Life Line Screening. He paid $230 for the test. In a story he published later in BMJ (British Medical Journal), he asked: “Why is this nonsense tolerated or allowed?” (See our recent post about commercial come-ons for medical screenings.)

Although the “ask first, test later” sentiment and its productive result were forged in Britain, U.S. consumers can benefit from the online service. As the site explains, “We are a group of doctors who are concerned about the safety and the ethics of private screening tests. We are worried that the companies who charge you for these tests are not giving consumers full and fair information about them.”

The site links to pages explaining their concerns, as well as to a page offering examples of misleading advertising, doctor and patient commentary and stories about screening offers and their results. Its Evidence Bank link provides a host of authoritative, scientific analyses of a wide range of specific screening tests for head and toe and everything in between.

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