He says: “We see people show up with their heart rate being recorded as low by their Apple Watch or Fitbit. This requires a GP appointment and possibly an ECG, at the end of which the results are normal and the result on the Apple Watch is attributed to a “one time only”.
Dr. Sabine Donnai, CEO of Viavi.com, operates at the forefront of preventative health screenings, essentially trying to address problems before they occur.
She says: “Viavi offers a personalized health assessment and tests people’s DNA to see how likely they are to have certain health problems. We look at two main areas of DNA: one looks for genetic mutations like the BRCA gene, and the second looks at DNA pathways and what preventative measures we can take to repair our DNA.”
She supports the new approach the NHS is taking. “We are trying to prevent the first dominoes from falling,” she says, “while the NHS tries to collect the first dominoes. They do well to focus on early detection.”
With the proposed shift to home testing, communication is key, she says. “We even see people saying, ‘I want to know?’ There is a scare factor, especially with screening for cancer or dementia. People don’t want to know [their results] because they think there is nothing they can do about it.
“You will need a very supportive and clear form of communication. I hope there are helplines with nurses or health advisors who can explain what the results mean and how quickly they can be addressed.”
As Dr Mahmood says: “Home checks risk turning people away from their GP.” What’s more, in the push to move toward home testing, it’s important to make sure that vital screening programs that can’t be done at home, like mammograms, don’t start to take second place in people’s minds. .
Author and former family lawyer Helen Garlick, 64, knows how easy it can be. She had a regular appointment for a mammogram seven years ago and was tempted to cancel. “It was for January 4, 2016 and I was very reluctant to go. I had so much work to catch up on. I was really struggling on whether to go or cancel.
“I had no symptoms and checked my breasts regularly, and had no family history of breast cancer that I knew of. But I missed an earlier one when I moved house. Thank God, I decided to go.”
A week after her mammogram, Helen was called to Barts Hospital for more tests. “They found out that she had a lump deep in my left breast near my bone,” she says. “It was not visible, nor could I feel it. It was stage 2/3, and I had a mastectomy and reconstruction.”
The biggest advantage of the move to home testing, says Dr. Donnai, is that it “sends the message that people need to take charge of their health. We need to shift the mindset from ‘if there’s something wrong, my doctor will fix it’ to ‘actually, I’m in the driver’s seat of my own health.’”
Helen, who wrote about her breast cancer treatment in her book there is no place to lie, has taken that message on board. Since she recovered from breast cancer, she has given up alcohol and moved to North Devon with her husband, where she walks 15,000 steps a day.
“Women in particular are good at putting others first, but not ourselves. Since I had a brush with my own mortality, I am prioritizing myself and that means taking care of my health.”