'Health bus' to tour Eastern Iowa, offer affordable heart screenings

Tour's goal is to catch cardiovascular abnormalities

Vanessa Miller
Published: January 8 2014 | 5:30 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:49 am in

A group of Iowa health care organizations – including University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City and Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids – is touring the state and parts of western Illinois this month to provide affordable mobile heart screenings.

The tests aimed at detecting heart disease and stroke risk are being offered via “health bus” at numerous locations, including sites in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Marion. The University of Iowa Health Alliance – which includes Mercy Health Network in Des Moines, Genesis Health System in Davenport, Mercy-Cedar Rapids and UI Health Care – is partnering with HealthFair to provide the mobile screenings.

HealthFair is the only mobile health testing service accredited by The Joint Commission, a national performance standards organization. The health bus will provide access to ultrasound, EKG and other tests used to detect heart disease at a reduced cost, according to the health alliance.

Individuals, in one hour, can get six tests valued at $2,300 for $179. The tests include an echocardiogram, 12-lead electrocardiogram, hardening of the arteries test, carotid artery ultrasound, peripheral arterial disease test and abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound.

For an extra $99, individuals also can get a “know your numbers” assessment to predict their five-year risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer and other health conditions.

Test results will be read by board-certified physicians, according to the alliance. Abnormal results will be shared with the individual, who then can choose whether to allow the results to be shared with a member hospital.

The goal is to catch cardiovascular abnormalities in otherwise healthy people before they become more serious, said Dan Kueter, executive director of the UI Health Alliance.

There are some medical experts, however, who question running many of the tests on people without symptoms or risk factors. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent government panel that evaluates screening, counseling and preventative care, recommends against use of some of the tests in adults who don’t seem to need it, according to a report in Kaiser Health News.

The panel reports that such screenings provide too few positives to outweigh the negatives, which include false positives, costly follow-ups and potentially unnecessary procedures.

Steven Weinberger, executive vice president and chief executive of the American College of Physicians, told Kaiser Health that much of the testing ends up being “of no importance at all.”

The screenings, Weinberger wrote in the Annuals of Internal Medicine journal, “not only can raise (health care) costs, but also can lead to additional testing that is harmful.”

Kueter, with the UI Health Alliance, said in a news release that the screenings compliment work being done by physicians.

“The mobile screenings will allow us to reach out to the communities we serve, bringing the power of information to patients who want to be proactive about their health,” he said.

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