Dr. Mark Baumel, of Colon Health Centers for America, is an example of the kind of medical innovation Virginians need. Dr. Baumel saw an opportunity to help increase the rate of screening for colon cancers. Colon (and other colorectal) cancer kills over 50,000 Americans each year—1,300 of them in Virginia. The true tragedy, though, is that most types of colon cancer are eminently treatable if caught early; the cancer is simply not getting noticed until it is too late. As many as 90 percent of colon-cancer deaths are preventable through proper screening, but fewer than 50 percent of the people at risk for these cancers get screened at all.
Enter Dr. Baumel’s innovation: Integrated Virtual Colonoscopy. With Integrated Virtual Colonoscopy, state-licensed gastroenterologists partner with Colon Health Centers of America. Colon Health Centers help the gastroenterologist purchase a CT scanner and set up an office. Patients then have to make only one appointment: They come into the gastroenterologist’s office for a virtual colonoscopy, their CT scan is immediately sent electronically and then read by off-site, Virginia-licensed radiologists working with Colon Health Centers, and (if those radiologists detect any abnormalities) the gastroenterologist can immediately perform the necessary procedure, without requiring a second appointment and preparation. It is designed to be the best of both worlds, and thereby, to increase the number of people who are screened for colon cancer. And, based on Dr. Baumel’s experience at his flagship center in Delaware, it works.