“Boom, you’re dead” warning doesn’t resonate with reporter on heart scan story

Those who market heart scan services should be more careful about what they promote and to whom.

When ProPublica’s Marshall Allen got a telemarketing offer for heart scans for him and his wife, he followed up with a story, “Body Imaging Business Pushes Scans Many Don’t Need – Including Me.”

Reminding Allen about the deaths of figure skater Sergei Grinkov, baseball player Darryl Kile, newsman Tim Russert and actor Patrick Swayze, the salesman said:

“You never know when it could happen. … Boom, you’re dead!” he exclaimed, slapping a desk for emphasis.

But Allen tells another story – of complaints by patients and regulators about the business.

“In the last two years, Heart Check America has made similar pitches to tens of thousands of Americans in five states, bringing in about $30 million in sales revenue, according to its manager, David Haddad.

But recently, the company has come under fire from patients, regulators and medical experts.

In scores of consumer complaints, Heart Check America clients have accused the company of using pressure sales tactics inappropriate for a health-care company.”

Read the whole story. We wish more journalists would tell the story of how screening tests are not always as life-saving as they are made to appear on the surface in marketing and promotions.

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Margaret Weeks

March 2, 2012 at 1:08 am

hey Marshall. i’ve been following you and i appreciate all your research and work you have put into all of this. i am on some intrepid quest myself, filled with a sense of righteousness i’ve never felt before. never been much of do-gooder or whistle blower, but lately i find myself obsessed with this story. you see, up until a week ago, i was actually working for lifescore (the name of the company haddad is now operating under as a silent partner), and had no idea they were formerly “heart check america.” i know some things seemed out of whack, not right, and i automatically assumed my feelings of disconcertedness had something to do with the product, like maybe scanning asymptomanic america is not a good thing? I’d fret and then i’d get back on the internet to do more research on scanning, wavering between the two camps: the doctors dead against it, and the doctors that wholeheartedly embrace it. still, i think the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that scanning is a good thing, especially where minimum radiation occurs. of course assuming the scan is accurate and well-done. i think it also brings people’s awareness up about their health, diet, bad habits. it certainly did mine after having the carotid aterty scan. i mean it is the incontestable picture..far more reliable than a cholesterol test. there is an argument circulating around that the reason insurance companies are against preventive screening is because it actually finds things that may require preventive medication and preventive surgery that is prohibitively expensive, and isn’t it just cheaper to let people die, or treat only the ones that already are sick? preventive medication coupled with preventive surgery could bankrupt insurance companies. but then the other camp will say: screening everyone causes mass hysteria’; there are way too many false positives that could cause too much undue surgery and sometimes the invasive surgery is even more dangerous than even the actual blockage itself, if there is any to be even found. additionally, some doctors say that even if you remove some blockage, if you have atheroscerlosis, it will more than likely just crop up somewhere else six months later, and you can’t just keep operating on people. moreover, they are discovering that some people actually live longer with the blockage than having stent surgery, because the body ingeniously find ways to adapt by going around the blockage, or by finding other vessels to transmit blood/oxgen. still, it’s a crying shame that these scanning procedures would get into the hands of peopel like the haddads. total douches. and the 10 years scans? “absurdly ridiculous, morally and ethically” i believe is what one doctor said.