Traditionally, people get routine testing when a doctor recommends them. This usually happens at the conclusion of an office visit. Nowadays however, people have begun deciding for themselves which routine testing to get and when to get them. This is a new concept for consumers and it has been a slow growing trends. Being able to order your own blood tests is a new concept that many people seam fearful of. It seems like there is a hidden trick behind the curtain that is waiting to surprise them.
Folks have different reasons for making such independent decisions. Some want to keep track of cholesterol or hemoglobin A1C levels. Others want to assure their blood tests will screen negative for drugs prior to a job search, test for the presence of a disease like hepatitis C or AIDS, or obtain a chemistry panel that provides a broad picture of their overall health. The biggest reason for consumer-directed routine testing however, is an economic one. Uninsured people and those with high-deductible insurance plans find it cheaper to do-it-themselves, since it avoids the cost of an office visit. For the uninsured, the ability to order these blood tests is incredibly beneficial. The accessibility to save money not having to visit their physician is a very attractive concept. Most individuals that order routine testing online state that not having to visit their doctor to get a lab prescription is the number one reason to adopt this.
The savings can add up. A lipid profile (including cholesterol levels) obtained from an online lab testing company costs about $40. A hemoglobin A1C blood test usually runs a bit less. Two doctors visits to the local clinic can typically costs $150 or more if you are paying out of pocket and this can be the case for millions of Americans that are not insured.
Although hundreds of blood tests can be obtained in this manner, the most commonly sought-after tests are lipid profiles, C-reactive protein (a new measure of cardiac risk), liver and kidney function tests, vitamin D levels, and hormone levels including estrogens and testosterone. There is other routine testing that is trending in popularity as well. Allergy blood tests are becoming more routine. Now with all of the allergies that are prevalent in children, parents are having their children allergy tested more frequently. This are considered immunological blood tests that never used to be available. Now that immunology technology is making positive breakthroughs in blood testing technologies, the peanut butter allergy blood tests are now available.
Consumers have plenty of ways to get routine testing done on their own. Many simple tests are available at drugstore clinics and health fairs, for example. Those interested in tracking their cholesterol levels over time can purchase either single-use devices for about $15 or reusable devices, usually for under $100. These kits are readily available but may not be as accurate as the technologies that are available in a 21st century clinical diagnostic laboratory environment. Clinical diagnostics labs are certified to be safe, secure and reliable testing environments that each state must license. These labs must also be CLIA certified. The Clinical Laboratory Act of 1988 requires all clinical labs that perform blood tests to be licensed and certified.
According to one report, people spent nearly $20 million for blood tests through companies like these last year, and annual growth of 15-20% is expected in the next few years (although these projections may seriously underestimate demand if newer, lab-on-a-chip technology continues to develop. This technology promises to cut waiting times for lab test results from several days to less than 30 minutes, a feature that will surely capture the imagination of health consumers).
There are Web-based companies permit consumers to order routine testing online. They contract with national laboratories like to draw the blood and run the routine testing. The companies usually have staff physicians that sign orders for tests without ever seeing patients. They also help consumers interpret the results, for example by emailing them with recommendations to see a doctor if their results fall outside normal ranges and by phoning anyone whose results suggest a serious abnormality. We are now entering into a new era of healthcare where consumers are able to manage their health more proactively. Giving the ability to order routine testing directly to consumers is a major step in the total personal healthcare revolution.