Emerging Screening Practices Advances In Health Screening

As the science and technology of modern healthcare continue to evolve, new forms of screening technology and approaches to health screening are developing.

While new forms of screening technology—such as CT scanning—show major advances in technology, not all emerging screening practices are high-tech. Do-it-yourself home health screening tests are becoming more common, and researchers are also discovering how helpful simple physical ability tests can be.

Home Health Screening

As individuals take on more and more responsibility for their health care, home health screening tests are growing in popularity.

Many over-the-counter home health screening tests can be used to screen for or monitor diseases. Patients can also use home health screening tests to take control of their health. For example, people with diabetes use home tests to track their blood sugar level.

  • Some commonly-administered home health screening tests include:
  • Cholesterol level tests
  • Fecal occult blood tests, to check for colorectal cancer
  • Glucose tests, to monitor diabetes
  • Hemoglobin tests, to check for anemia
  • Pregnancy tests.

When it comes to home health screening, a trade-off may exist between convenience and quality. These tests aren’t meant to be diagnostic; discuss all results with a healthcare professional.

New Approaches and Screening Technology

CT scanning (also called CAT scanning) is a fairly new screening technique that uses x-ray technology to view various systems of the body. Although the jury is still out on the merits of whole-body CT screening for people without symptoms, CT scanning is one of several emerging screening practices with the potential to diagnose many asymptomatic conditions.

For example, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2009), a CT virtual colonoscopy is a very effective form of health screening, and CT coronary calcium scoring is an effective way to monitor heart health.

Another new screening technology is computer-aided detection for mammograms, which alerts radiologists to potential abnormalities in mammographic images.

Physical Ability and Health Screening

Not all emerging screening practices involve new screening technology. A study conducted at University College London (reported by the British Medical Journal, 2009) found that testing a patient’s simple physical capabilities may predict her overall health and life expectancy.

Researchers reviewed 33 studies that measured the following basic capabilities:

  • Balancing on one leg
  • Grip strength
  • Rising from a chair
  • Walking speed.

The studies consistently revealed that the lowest scores on these health screening tests were associated with individuals with the highest death rates. For example, the death rate for the slowest walkers was 2.87 times higher than that of the fastest walkers.

Researchers suggest this information, and studies from other emerging screening practices, can be used to target medical intervention, protecting health and patients’ quality of life.

Resources

American College of Radiology/American Roentgen Ray Society. (2010). Computer-aided detection is increasingly being used in screening and diagnostic mammography. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101001163335.htm

Cooper, R., Kuh, D. & Hardy, R. (2010). Objectively measured physical capability levels and mortality: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c4467.abstract’sid=1b89dde4-13e7-4e3b-87b8-2db92ae6e0d3

Lab Tests Online. (2008). With home testing, consumers take charge of their health. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from

U.S. Food And Drug Administration. (2009). Whole-body CT screening—Should I or shouldn’t I get one? Retrieved October 25, 2010 from