FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, January 24, 2005

CT Body Scans: The Emerging Medical Trend That Wasn't

Several years ago, CT body scans were all the rage. The idea that a patient could get his or her entire body imaged in one process, and find out about any problems early, seemed like the future of medicine.

Today, though, interest in body scanning seems to have ebbed, and those clinics that haven't yet closed are fighting for survival. What went wrong? Mostly, patients didn't feel like shelling out $500 to $1,000 -- which usually wasn't reimbursed by insurers -- for the service. It also didn't help that professional medical societies advised against the procedure, claiming the scans weren't conclusive enough to detect and diagnose anything meaningful.

The rapid rise and fall of the CT body scanning business points to the limits of consumer-driven healthcare, which many argue is the wave of the future in health. In consumer-driven healthcare, patients control their healthcare decisions -- including the money spent on their care -- with doctors relegated to an advisory role. One of the characteristics (and maybe problems) of CT body scanning services is that they disintermediate the physician from the process. The patient goes to the CT clinic independently, and receives the results directly. Perhaps one disincentive to getting a body scan is that patients want their doctors' involvement... and when they discuss it, their doctors discourage them from getting a scan.

Perhaps CT body scanning is simply a technology that's ahead of its time. But the collapse of the business model should provide valuable lessons and warnings to anyone pursuing opportunities in consumer-driven healthcare.

Source: The Health Care Blog, The New York Times