Hospitals conduct unnecessary medical screenings purely for profit, not medical need

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(NaturalNews) Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group serving as the people's voice in the nation's capital, is accusing HealthFair Health Screening of promoting unnecessary and untargeted screenings to patients.

The LA Times reports that the consumer group sent letters to eight hospitals requesting that they cut ties with the Fla.-based health-screening group, amid allegations that their "testing program is likely to do more harm than good for consumers."

HealthFair performs what they refer to as "preventive mobile health screening services," operating out of a van parked outside places frequented by large and diverse groups of people, including grocery stores and churches.

Medical professionals have warned about the consequences of heavily marketed broad health screenings, including possible overtreatments, "false positives" and unnecessary spending.

"It is exploitative to promote and provide medically non-beneficial testing through the use of misleading and fear-mongering advertisements in order to generate medically unnecessary but profitable referrals to the institutions partnered with HealthFair," said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.

"For many people, false-positive test results from this screening lead to unfounded anxiety and additional unnecessary, risky and costly diagnostic procedures and treatment interventions," Public Citizen claimed.

The company offers different packages ranging from $179 to $350, providing a variety of services including measuring testosterone and thyroid levels, and testing for "heart disease, stroke and aneurysm prevention." The screenings include an electrocardiogram and a carotid artery ultrasound.

Their mobile van also tests for colon cancer.

"HealthFair believes in educating the public about their risk and providing them the opportunity to choose what type of preventive testing is right for them," said the company.

"Nothing in our advertisements induces fear."

The company's website lists testimonials, and articles fluctuating between healthy eating habits and highly recommended screenings, including a local news segment promoting their "Heartbeat Bus."

Consumer group warns hospitals nationwide

Three hospitals in Calif. were identified as having a relationship with HealthFair, as well as five hospitals out of the Greater Cincinnati area.

Public Citizen reportedly also sent letters to hospitals in the following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia.

The consumer group told the Cincinnati Business Courier that the "screenings are heavily promoted to people who don't show symptoms that would indicate a need for such tests and aren't at significant risk."

Dr. Patrick O'Gara, president of the American College of Cardiology, a Washington-based organization with nearly 50,000 members, agreed with the consumer group.

"The questions raised about screening have some merit," said Dr. O'Gara, who is also director of the clinical cardiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in addition to teaching at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"Other than assessing blood pressure and serum cholesterol, being attentive to diabetes and promoting a healthy weight with regular exercise, we do not recommend broad and untargeted screening. Decisions about the need for additional testing should be based on each patient's circumstances."

Dr. O'Gara's statement makes it pretty clear that proper exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet, excluding GMOs, is the key to preventive health, not costly and unnecessary screenings designed to locate a problem.

Public Citizen insists that promoting such screenings are "unethical" and simply aimed at "scaring healthy individuals" just to make a buck.

A letter from the consumer group claimed that "it is exploitative to promote and provide medically non-beneficial testing... in order to generate medically unnecessary but profitable referrals to your institution."

Public Citizen is a non-profit organization with two locations in Washington, D.C., and one in Austin, Texas.

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