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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Good News! A Workplace Wellness Vendor Saying You’re Sick Means You’re Probably Healthy | The Health Care Blog

Good News! A Workplace Wellness Vendor Saying You’re Sick Means You’re Probably Healthy | The Health Care Blog.

From the 25 January 2014 blog item

Your wellness vendor says you are: But are you really sick?

Don’t take our for it that these workplace wellness programs are a complete and utter waste of your time and blood and your employer’s money, and can even generate medical treatments you don’t need.  Do the arithmetic yourself.  (The next paragraph does contain a little math but on the bright side if you can follow it, you can probably continue to live independently for at least a few more years.)

Assume a vendor finger-stick test that you get at your company’s “health fair” is 96 percent accurate. Further assume that vendors are seeking silent disorders that on average have a 1 percent prevalence.  Do you suppose your odds of a false positive in those circumstances are 4 percent? To use a technical clinical term, nope. Out of 100 employees, the single employee who is actually afflicted with this disorder should test positive. Unfortunately, 4 of the other 99 will also test positive even though they are fine…because a 96%-accurate test is also 4%-inaccurate. This means of the 5 people who test positive, only 1 has the disorder—a false positive rate of 80 percent!

And that’s just on one test. With that kind of accuracy, it’s odds-on that if you get all the tests with all the frequencies that a wellness vendor recommends, at least one lab value will eventually be outside a normal range…and potentially thrust you into the treatment trap. The key to surviving this testing jihad without being trapped is–as with just about everything else in wellness–to start with the assumption that the vendor is wrong. This is a pretty safe bet. How safe? I don’t even know you, but if you tell me the sky is green and a wellness vendor profiled in this book tells me the sky is blue, I’d at least go look out the window.

Those false-positives make overdiagnosis (finding and treating maladies that don’t exist) the rule, not the exception.

 

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February 2, 2014 - Posted by | Workplace Health | , ,

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