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.
A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?
Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.
A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate
Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway
Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.