Researchers have developed a smart phone app that can screen for cancer and possibly a lot of other diseases. Is this a good thing or just another way for doctors to secure ongoing business?
There is a link between the results of the app and real screenings. A link, but what is that link? If people just start screening themselves for anything and everything, the chances for false positives are huge. But everyone will go to the doctor for more tests and those results might be flawed too, which might lead to a lot of unnecessary treatments. Good for the doctors, not good for the patients.
Cancer screening programs are notoriously unreliable. They give many false negative tests (you have cancer, but it’s not found) and many false positives (you don’t have cancer, but are told you have). So if the app gives results that are a bit similar to the official screening, then what does that mean? Does it give more false positives, or fewer false negatives? Or is it just as random as the standard screening?
They can also screen for DNA from viruses, but there is just a minor problem there: they have no idea what that means. If you have a virus, then so what? It doesn’t mean that you are sick. Or that you will get sick. Forget the story about viruses that make you sick. They don’t. They just show up at the same time that you are sick, which is something completely different. But even if vir0logy would be correct, then still having viruses in your blood doesn’t mean anything. For your immune system might be perfectly equipped to eliminate them before you get sick. But in the meantime the patient will get in a panic and run to the doctor, who can’t do anything about viral diseases anyway.
So what is the use of this new phone app? For patients I can’t see any benefits. They just risk wrong diagnoses, harmful treatments and a lot of stress. But for the medical industry it will be great. Many patients will come in who would have stayed at home without this app. Then you can possibly diagnose them with a disease they don’t have and the cash keeps flowing.
Am I cynical? Nope. Just realistic. Apps and health care don’t go together, but worse than that: doctors and health care just don’t seem to go together anymore. For doctors don’t seem to care about keeping their patients healthy, but just to diagnose them with as many diseases as possible.