When Mervat El Nasr decided to do a DNA test, she gained new insights on the best ways to live her life. She was weary about DNA testing at first, fearful the test would reveal she would get cancer or heart disease. However, the tests revealed that she is lactose intolerant and is lacking in Vitamin B12. She learnt what foods to avoid and was given some supplements that would increase her vitality. “The analysis changed my life for the better,” confirmed Mervat El Nasr.
DNA testing can help people find out whether they will suffer from any serious illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s or heart disease. In the past, there wasn’t much one could do to foresee one’s medical future, however, quick and easy to use DNA kits have recently spread around the world, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities and concerns.
Hassan Healthcare (HH), founded in 2017 by Dr. Mostafa Hassan, is one company in Egypt hoping to help people foresee their medical future by offering quick, simple and affordable DNA testing on a national scale. HH aims to offer a variety of innovative and creative solutions to the problems facing Egypt’s healthcare industry, in addition to “switching towards a preventative system,” according to Hassan. They are enabling customers to take preventative measures for hereditary diseases they are likely to get. They do this by offering DNA tests for over 100 different diseases customers later receive a detailed breakdown of the results from a consultant. Customers no longer need to go through the hassle of lengthy hospital visits to receive detailed information about their health.
DNA testing is nothing new. Dr. Hassan recalls learning about DNA testing in high school and how people’s DNA can tell them what diseases they’re likely to suffer from. Fascinated by the potential that this testing had to revolutionize healthcare in Egypt, Dr. Hassan’s company offers the first direct-to-consumer DNA testing in the country.
Mervat El Nasr, one of HH’s customers and had her DNA tested in early 2019. Like many people, she didn’t want to know whether she was at risk of suffering from any serious illnesses. However, after observing her daughter go through the process and seeing her receive the thorough consultation advice that HH offers she decided to have a test too. Within a month of submitting her DNA swab, a consultant from HH was able to sit down with her and discuss the 150-page report from the laboratory.
“Medicine has always been a diagnose and treat system, but in this generation we’re switching towards a preventative system.” Mostafa Hassan, Managing Partner, Hassan Healthcare
El Nasr was amazed by the preventative advice she was given, including what supplements to take, foods she should eat and avoid, and exercises to concentrate on all for $350. Dr Hassan also had his DNA tested and the results allowed him to make positive health changes. The results told him that the headaches he’d been suffering from were migraines and he was able to start taking the medicine to prevent them from happening in the future.
Despite the benefits of HH’s service, there are privacy concerns surrounding this relatively new practise in Egypt. Insurance companies could use this information to justify increases in the price of healthcare plans if they were to access it. Hassan says that the company’s customer data is never shared with any third party and customers can choose to remain anonymous throughout the testing process. Furthermore, the company says it abides by international laws and the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which regulates the use of Americans’ medical records.
Globally there are increasing worries around the use of personal medical data. Most recently, Google signed a deal with health insurance company Ascension, giving it access to the medical records of 50 million Americans. This raised concerns surrounding over the ways in which the patients’ data will be used. In Egypt specifically, there are no laws governing the collection and use of people’s DNA data, making the public reliant on companies like Hassan Healthcare to keep their vital medical information secure.
Privacy concerns aside the future potential of DNA testing around the world is huge. Customers can avoid high consultation fees and insurance costs and receive life-changing information about their health. Dr Hassan believes Egypt is a perfect market for DNA testing as more and more people take an active interest in their health and the cost of the tests goes down.
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