Even as the Obama administration scrambles to find new ways to rein in health-care costs, a new trend in consumer medicine might boost unnecessary spending.
A number of direct-to-consumer companies now offer genetic testing over the Internet, providing customers with estimates of their risk of developing different diseases and other information. Many people then take these reports to their physicians, “who have little idea of how to interpret them, let alone how to act on them,” says Michael Murray, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston. “No one has a handle on the economic cost to health care.”
Over the long term, geneticists and physicians hope that genetic testing for disease risk will reduce health-care costs by enabling targeted early screening and better preventative medicine. But in the near term, as clinicians and scientists learn how to use genetic information, the results of direct-to-consumer tests might prompt physicians to order screening tests and other procedures that they likely would not do otherwise. “We don’t have the foggiest idea whether this is generating a ton of downstream cost,” says Murray, who discussed the issue at the Consumer Genetics Conference in Boston last week. “My hunch is, if not now, it probably will.”
Murray hopes to have a more concrete answer soon. He is surveying health-care providers who have received these types of inquiries from patients to find out what questions patients ask and whether follow-up tests were ordered based on the results.
Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love
Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.
How AI is reinventing what computers are
Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.
Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.