Prevention before Treatment? How Biomarkers are Changing Health Care

Nov 15, 2010   //   by Colin Manuel   //   Blog, Company Profiles, Health & Nutrition, Leadership  //  No Comments

Does medical screening have a role in CSR?One of BusinessEarth’s goals is to prove that socially and environmentally responsible business is possible and profitable. When we find a company that embodies these principles, we highlight their achievements and challenges so you can apply their lessons to your business. Rich Martin, CFO of Biophysical, discusses biomarkers and preventive health care as well as the role companies can play the well-being of their employees.

BE Profiles Biophysical: Health & Wellness from the Inside-Out

Does prevention hold the key to America’s health crisis? If you’re like most people, you only visit the doctor when you’re ill. But what if there was a way to identify risk factors before they turned into chronic health problems?

Biomarker Screening and Health Care

“Years before you become diabetic, there are other changes happening in your body,” says Martin. “Before glucose becomes a problem, your body will experience a spike in insulin levels as it compensates for insulin’s diminishing strength.”

By identifying these precursors early with medical screening, you can start exercise and diet programs to reverse the path toward chronic disease. “It’s easier and cheaper to prevent illnesses like diabetes than it is to manage them once they manifest themselves,” says Martin.

What’s a Biomarker?

Biomarkers are important components in the bloodstream that can indicate health status. Some familiar biomarkers include cholesterol, estrogen and glucose. Biomarkers are not a diagnostic and they have key differences from a genetic screening.

“Biomarkers are different from genetic testing,” says Martin.  “A genetic test would indicate the likelihood of developing cancer. It won’t tell you if it’s taking place right now.” In other words, biomarkers focus on the physical changes actually happening inside your body.

“Standard technologies require 15 tubes of blood to test for 15 biomarkers,” says Martin. “Biophysical can test multiple biomarkers, such as cardiovascular, hormone, autoimmune or cancer, all from a single vial of blood.”

Biophysical’s consumer products range in price depending upon the number of biomarkers tested. The Biophysical CA/CV panel focuses on biomarkers for cancer and cardiovascular disease and retails for $475 while the comprehensive Biophysical 250 panel includes 250 biomarkers and is priced at $3,500.

From Treatment to Prevention: Changes in Personal Medicine

Martin believes Biophysical is riding two trends. “Preventative medicine is becoming more accepted by patients, and insurance companies are being pressured to include preventative offerings in their plans.”

Physicians are also starting to opt-out of traditional insurance reimbursement. Such “concierge doctors” are one of the fastest growing fields in medicine. “These doctors are focused on the patient’s overall health,” says Martin, “Instead of insurance companies telling them how to treat symptoms, these doctors can make their own decisions as partners in the well-being of their patient.”

Corporate Social Responsibility meets Preventative Health Care

When you hear discussions about corporate social responsibility (CSR), they often focus on a company’s impact on the environment. While this is an important piece of the puzzle, it’s not the complete picture. The health and well-being of your employees and community is an essential part of any CSR strategy.

While physicians represent their largest market, Biophysical has seen more interest from businesses that want to offer biomarker screening to their employees. By providing employees with preventative information they can use for their own health decisions, companies hope to improve the well-being of the employee while also lowering premiums for the entire insurance pool.

“From a corporate perspective, it’s important to manage costs. An employee with Type II diabetes can add $6,000 per year to your company’s health care costs,” says Martin. If you can give that person information to change his or her behavior before developing such a chronic disease, you can improve their life and lower your insurance costs.

Corporate sponsorships make the most sense when there are a large number of employees and health care makes up a significant part of cost structure. Such tests typically focus on biomarkers for chronic conditions most prevalent in the population. “If you’re willing to pay $100 to help an employee understand their risk of chronic disease, you save your company money and help that employee avoid a long-term tragedy for the family.”

Biophysical’s Challenges: Behavioral and Structural Change

To reach its full impact, Biophysical must overcome one of the most resistant forces on earth: human behavior. Just having the information isn’t enough. Employees need a support structure that will help them make real and lasting changes to the way they treat their bodies.

The current health care model also poses a challenge. While the number of concierge doctors is growing, not everyone can afford such independent and dedicated services.

Medical Screening: Part of the Solution

Ultimately, the shift toward preventative health care depends as much upon a change in our behavior as it does to a change in technology or insurance policies. While Biophysical has only been around a few years, they’re already starting to change the way companies think about the health and well-being of their employees.

BusinessEarth applauds Biophysical in its efforts to profitably solve a problem and enhance or extend thousands of lives.  What is your company doing to take preventative steps for tomorrow’s problems?