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Star Wellness Doubles Down on Ignorance

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Once in every great while, when we’re least expecting it, a company comes along that makes us reconsider our viewpoint–and ponder the possibility that maybe we’re wrong about wellness. Maybe, finally, we’ve discovered a company that will motivate employees to get well.  Maybe a company that adheres to screening guidelines.  Maybe even a company that will solve America’s healthcare crisis.

Star Wellness is not that company.


Below, you’ll find a partial list of the clinical goodies in Star Wellness’s hyperdiagnostic candy jar. Most of these tests would never be ordered on an asymptomatic patient by a doctor, but not to worry. In 47 states, you can actually purchase these tests directly from the Star’s lab, without some pesky doctor with some silly medical degree observing that it’s a bad idea to subject healthy people to a barrage of mostly US Preventive Services Task Force C-and-D-rated tests. Instead, you can get your results reviewed by one of Star’s highly qualified, thoroughly vetted, well-trained…franchisees:

Star is seeking franchisees with backgrounds in sales, finance or (and we are using a screenshot because we don’t want to be accused of making this up):

Five whole days? Oh, wait — “up to” five whole days. So maybe a really smart municipality administrator could cover all the material in four days. That leaves one extra day to snooker employers and harm employees.


Here is a partial list of their tests. I say “partial” because you can click through on the “general health profile” and find even more tests. And many of these tests themselves include more tests. For instance, a complete blood count has 6 and the “comprehensive thyroid panel” has 7. In total, you can get more than 40 blood values measured. If these tests are 90% accurate and you are completely normal, 4 (10%) of those tests could return a value that is out of range, just randomly.

When I say they “doubled down on ignorance” of the fact that you simply aren’t supposed to go around hunting for diseases, it’s because they used to do only about half as many useless tests as they do now. So they have literally doubled down on ignorance, vs. this original list:

Where to start? First, no licensed doctor should “typically order” these tests “during a routine physical,” at least if they want to keep that license. (Star can order them because wellness vendors aren’t doctors. They only play doctor, so they don’t need a license.)

Second, these tests are not “over $350 value,” for many reasons. Besides most of them being worthless or harmful, a “routine physical” doesn’t cost $350. Capitated doctors would go bankrupt ordering these tests.

Then there is “Lyme’s Disease.” News flash: it’s called “Lyme Disease.” No apostrophe. Just as they are confused about basically everything else involving wellness, they may be getting confused about the origin of the name, so I’ll clue them in. It’s named for the town where an epidemiologist identified it, not for a Yankee who died of it.

And if they have figured out how to accurately diagnose Lyme Disease, they deserve a Nobel Prize. Finally, no doctor would order a test for “Lyme’s Disease” as part of a routine physical.

The US Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t rate Lyme Disease screening because no one should be screened for Lyme Disease, and everyone other than Star Wellness knows that. (Yes, people who have been exposed to ticks or who have symptoms should be tested. But those are tests done as part of a diagnostic workup, not screens that employees are forced to undergo if they don’t want to be fined. Tests are done by doctors, not municipal administrators.)


H. pylori: The worst wellness screen ever?

First, the US Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t bother to grade it, largely because no self-respecting doctor would ever screen patients for this.  Shame on the USPSTF for consistently failing to anticipate all the ways in which wellness vendors can misunderstand basic clinical science!

Second, most of us who harbor H. pylori have no symptoms.  So why screen for something that’s not causing problems?  That’s the very stable genius of Star Wellness. By expanding tests to include panels of no clinical value whatsoever, Star Wellness can make more money, which will please them, and hyperdiagnose more employees, which will please their clients.

The fact that a real doctor would only test someone who has an actual reason to be tested explains why H. pylori is a test, not a screen.  If you have an ulcer or symptoms that suggest an ulcer, go to the doctor. Even then, the doctor probably won’t even bother to test you, since most people get relief simply from well-tolerated, commonly used pills like Zantac.  It is only if the first-line medications fail that most doctors will even test you.

Third, H. pylori may be beneficial.  Screening us to try to get rid of something we generally want in our bodies represents a new frontier in hyperdiagnosis.

Fourth — ironically, given the wellness industry’s obsession with employees’ weights — it is even possible that killing off H. Pylori contributes to weight gain.

Fifth, what exactly are we supposed to do, if it turns out we harbor H. pylori?  Get a course of antibiotics to clear the bacteria out of our system?  That makes sense.  We’ve always maintained that one of the problems with America’s healthcare system is that patients aren’t prescribed enough antibiotics. (Not.)

The good news for the pharmaceutical industry is due to the nature of H. pyroli, hiding in our stomach mucus, it takes a lot of antibiotics to ferret it out, plus a bunch of other pills.  Is this a great country or what?

Finally, half the world’s population has it.   Given the expense and inaccuracy of the test and the prevalence of the bacterium, why not eliminate the middle step and just put all your employees on antibiotics?


And now let’s play Jeopardy 

Answer: Along with everything else, this is a topic Star Wellness knows nothing about.

Question:

Their random number generator is slightly off: 222,000 people under age 45 do not suffer a stroke every year. For 18-to-44-year-olds, the actual statistic is 14,835.  And yet Star is convinced that the number should be 14 times higher, judging by their choice of punctuation mark! Let’s test their hypothesis that you can make an utterly false statement true by adding an exclamation point to see how well that works: “Star Wellness Is Run by Geniuses!”

No such luck. We’ll try a few more exclamation points below to see if we get a different result, which is very likely!

Since there are more than 50,000,000 adults under 45, you would need to screen 3000 employees to find one person who would have a stroke. If their test is 90% accurate (in their dreams), for every person they find who needs to go to the doctor to prevent this stroke, 300 (10% of 3000 — the false positive rate is the inverse of the accuracy rate) would be sent to the doctor for no reason to potentially have their arteries reamed out or some such thing. And the only way that guarantees that you’ll prevent a stroke is if the treatment kills the employee first.

That is exactly why you shouldn’t be going around screening people for this stuff — especially people under age 45.


Let’s teach Star Wellness how to do their job

Take a looksee at this illustration of a Star Wellness health fair. I’m sure this picture will appeal to every employee!

Sal, Wyoming’s not a country.

Star Wellness, Vitamin B12 is not a vaccine.

And why any employer would want to go around poking employees with syringes full of vitamins would be a mystery to most doctors. But Star Wellness franchisees are way smarter than any doctor!

At least when it comes to knowing how to administer a municipality.


1 Comment

  1. Sam Lippe says:

    The only thing stupider than Star Wellness is to buy a franchise from Star Wellness.

    Like

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