Currently there are only a few established large-scale screening programmes for high-impact diseases in Europe and around the world. At Aqsens Health Oy we believe that there is more to be done in preventive healthcare and especially in large-scale screening. Now, it’s time to rethink how population level screening is done and consider new methods and solutions fit for the digital age.
The economics of preventive screening
The cost of healthcare is skyrocketing all over the world and governments are eagerly looking for means to lower the cumulative costs caused by high-impact, high prevalence diseases. However, there are not many screening methods that can deliver both accuracy and cost-efficiency at a large scale. But what would an economically feasible screening method look like? And how could it be beneficial for both patients and health care providers?
From the health economics point of view, a non-invasive screening test that uses biological samples would bring the most benefits. Biological sampling requires significantly less health care resources, especially when samples can be collected at home using home test kits. This type of process ties the minimum amount of valuable health care resources.
Another financial benefit of cost-efficient screening would come in the form of a reduced need for expensive analysis procedures like MRI’s and biopsies. When a screening test is reliable and accurate, the more costly procedures can be focused efficiently to those who need them the most. An early diagnosis of a disease also typically means that there is no need to use the most aggressive or harmful treatments, which also contributes to lower costs for health systems.
Easier and equal access – lowering the threshold to participate
Easy sample collection also lowers the participation threshold. When the participation in a screening does not require you to take time from your day to book an appointment and go to a clinic to give your sample, the process instantly becomes easier and more accessible to a larger number of people. Informed patients would have an increased number of choices and the possibility to anonymously donate a sample and receive the results online using strong digital authentication. Patients could have a bigger impact on their own health, and they would be more willing to participate in preventive screenings.
In developing economies easier access can also translate to more equal access. Mobile solutions tied to already existing technologies and methods that require little to no medical training make screening possible in areas that might not even have access to running water. According to the World Bank, more households in developing nations already have access to a mobile phone than have electricity or clean water.
People in resource-constrained settings need to also be able to benefit from the innovations of the digital age. An easy-to-use, cost-efficient method that is easily deployed and managed in different circumstances would ensure that no one gets left behind.
Addressing the possible problems
There are a few challenges that have to be kept in mind when rethinking large-scale screenings. The often highlighted problems lie in balancing the benefits of screening with its possible harms. If the screening methods are not especially developed and suited for screening purposes, the negative effects will in most likely outweigh positives.
One of the most important aspects is making sure that overdiagnosis can be avoided. Close cooperation with clinicians and specialists to develop the best possible solutions and predictive models is essential when establishing new screening methods. Making sure that the screening test used is highly sensitive and as specific as possible will bring the largest advantages.
A well executed screening programme paired with an accurate method has the potential to lower health care costs and provide better care for patients. Coupled with digitalized and mobile solutions, in addition to financial gains, preventive screening can become more equal and more accessible to everyone.
Aqsens Health Oy