Controversy over mobile health programs

PHILADELPHIA - August 27, 2012

But some doctors say this type of screening comes with some major concerns.

Michael Swope is getting six medical tests onboard a HealthFair bus sponsored by Jefferson University Hospital. He doesn't have insurance and wants peace of mind.

"I am 53-years-old and in the last five years I have buried 10 buddies under 55," Swope said.

But as more of these buses park in local lots, Dr. Steven Weinberger of the American College of Physicians is sounding the alarm in an article published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

He says advertising medical tests directly to consumers in this fashion is irresponsible and gives consumers a false sense of benefit.

He says many of the tests aren't recommended for the general public.

"Five of the six tests have really no indication for screening," Dr. Weinberger said.

Dr. Weinberger says although the tests won't directly hurt patients, but if an abnormal result is found it could lead more invasive, dangerous testing for an issue that may not need to be treated.

He wants patients involved in their care, but he says they also must be informed.

"There is nothing in the advertisement that tells the patient these are the potential risks and potential harms," Dr. Weinberger said.

The article also says "medical organizations should refrain from sponsoring these screenings because it represents a conflict of interest."

We're told no one was available at Jefferson to comment.

HealthFair is accredited and the COO says there are some medical organizations that back their screenings

He also points to patients who have avoided health emergencies they say due to the screening.

Clearly there is some controversy regarding these screenings.

Dr. Weinberger says it is still up to consumers to decide whether they want to do this, but he wants them to be informed and if possible work with your doctor.

With these screenings affiliated with Jefferson, a doctor there will contact any patients with abnormal results. However, that is not always the case with other health screenings which is another concern.

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