Pricey heart disease screening program virtually uselessby: Ethan A. Huff
heart disease, screening, health news
Researchers in the U.K. are questioning the effectiveness of a $387 million a year heart screening program started in the country back in 2008. According to a report published in the British Medical Journal on the issue, the money being spent on this program would be much better spent on patients who are actually at high risk of developing heart disease.
In most developed nations around the world, cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death. According to reports, $46.4 billion is spent every year in the U.K. dealing with heart disease, and more than $503 billion is spent each year in the U.S. Many countries have been working on programs to help curb the disease.
But rather than screen basically everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 as is currently being done in the U.K., some experts are now suggesting that only people whose medical records indicate that they are at a "high risk" of developing heart disease be screened. And according to the research, following this approach, which is much less expensive than screening everyone, will achieve the same results.
"There are untreated patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease, most of whom can be identified from their electronic primary care records. We should act on this information," explained Tom Marshall, a public health expert from the University of Birmingham, in a commentary on the study.
The research basically concluded that the government program to screen everyone was no more effective at preventing heart disease than a targeted, scientific approach that identifies people who are actually more susceptible to developing cardiovascular problems.
The team evaluated various alternative strategies including changing the screening age range, altering screening criteria, and using heart disease risk questionnaires, but the ultimately came to the conclusion that the government could save a lot of money by simply testing high-risk patients. In other words, it is wasting money on a program that is essentially useless.
"A universal screening program for cardiovascular disease might prevent an important number of new cardiovascular events...but it may be unrealistic to implement it in increasingly resource-constrained health systems," explained Simon Griffin, author of the study.
Britain's Conservative Party has indicated that it may get rid of the screening program but, thus far, the program is still in full operation.Sources for this story include:http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63O2AF20100425