- While he’s at home diagnostic tests are nothing new, a handful of testing companies have gone further.
- Some diagnostic testing companies are now offering in-home appointments that include a blood draw.
- They send mobile phlebotomists to your home to draw your blood and send the sample to a lab.
- This trend in health care could help reduce barriers to care and lead to better diagnoses and management of health issues.
You’re probably familiar with home diagnostic tests, including pregnancy and COVID-19 tests. These types of tests allow people to obtain medical information from the safety and comfort of their homes.
Despite medical advances in home testing, blood tests still need to be done by trained personnel, which means most people have to go to a clinic or doctor’s office.
But going to a clinic can pose barriers to care for some older people, people with disabilities and those who live in areas without access to medical facilities.
To help make blood testing more accessible, the home lab testing industry is expanding its reach. Increasingly, you can book appointments for home visits by certified phlebotomists for a wide range of diagnostic tests.
Home lab tests typically involve using a kit to collect biological samples, such as saliva or urine, and interpreting the results without the help of a healthcare professional.
For example, companies like CVS Health, Everlywell, and offer a range of home testing kits that screen for various health profiles and conditions. These may include:
After you receive the test kit, you collect the samples and send the completed test to a lab for analysis and interpretation.
But some home lab tests require a healthcare professional to order a test kit for you.
Cologuard, for example, is a home lab test that can detect blood in stool and DNA markers for colorectal cancer.
Although many home lab tests have been available for decades, they have become increasingly used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The notable increase in home testing can be attributed, in part, to the widespread availability of COVID-19 testing, testing mandated by schools and employers, and a desire to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
According to a February 2022 report, the home testing industry is expected to be worth over $2 billion by 2025.
Additionally, a recent market research analysis suggests that the global home test kit market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1% from 2022 to 2029.
As with lab tests performed in a clinical setting, your healthcare professional orders home lab tests.
But home blood tests require a certified phlebotomist to come to your home to collect blood samples and deliver them to the lab. Results are available to you and your healthcare professional when completed.
In general, many of the home lab tests available include most of the same diagnostic and health monitoring tests that you would typically receive in a clinical lab.
Home lab testing has some distinct advantages:
- You don’t have to leave your home, which could help you get the tests you need to diagnose or manage a health condition.
- It removes barriers to testing if you have limited access to medical facilities, a disability, or limited mobility.
- You can test privately, with only you and the mobile phlebotomist present. This can help reduce some fears related to the stigma associated with certain conditions.
- You may see results faster, which may lead to earlier treatment.
- Home testing can be more convenient and work around your schedule.
The disadvantages of home lab tests include:
- Some insurance companies do not cover home lab tests.
- The test could be handled or stored incorrectly, causing inaccurate results.
- Some positive results require a visit to a medical professional for treatment, which may require repeat testing.
- These services are not available in some regions.
“There is room for error, especially with home testing,” Dr. Jeffrey Dlott, senior medical director of diagnostic services at Quest Diagnostics, told Healthline.
“Taking your own blood can be intimidating and anxiety-provoking for many. And if not done correctly, the results may be inconclusive and require repeating the collection process. For many, a blood draw by a trained phlebotomist may be preferred to having their own finger prick at home.
This means that easily accessible medical tests can be essential to ensure that health conditions are managed appropriately.
According to Dr. Kerri Masutto, a board-certified internal medicine physician and vice president of clinical operations at home testing company Lifeforce, home testing could remove barriers to care for people who:
- have mental health issues, physical disabilities, or mobility issues
- care for children, older adults or people with health problems
- should take unpaid time off or use accrued paid time off for their health care
- have limited access to medical testing facilities
- experience financial disparities
- manage a busy schedule
- have health conditions that negatively affect their immune system or are at increased risk of disease or infection
- may have concerns about confidentiality of testing in clinical settings
Seniors can also benefit from the convenience of home testing.
For example, a University of Michigan national survey on healthy aging found that 74% of seniors surveyed believe home testing is more convenient than testing in a medical facility.
Many home testing companies offer home lab appointments that you, your healthcare professional or caregiver can schedule online.
Depending on the service, a certified mobile phlebotomist can come to your home to draw blood.
After the samples are collected, they are sent to a third-party lab like Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics for processing. Your insurance information is also collected and shared with labs accordingly. Your test results may be made available by the lab, your healthcare professional, or Apple Health.
Kyle Michelson, CEO of Getlabs, a company that offers in-person lab collection by licensed phlebotomists, told Healthline that home blood tests allow healthcare professionals to make medical decisions remotely.
“Previously, providers needed medical facilities to see their patients. However, 40% of patients skip their scheduled medical appointments,” Michelson said.
“These days, convenience is not a luxury but a necessity. Once at home, our specialists can collect diagnostic data including lab tests, vital signs, biometrics, liquid biopsies and more. By doing so, we improve adherence and help ensure patients receive preventative care during the critical window for early detection.
Other companies offering home phlebotomist services include:
It’s a good idea to check with your insurer if home testing is covered by your policy.
Michelson said the lab testing portion is usually — but not always — covered by insurance.
Getlabs, for example, charges a convenience fee starting at $35 for same-day visits.
“In some cases, patients may submit their receipt to their insurer for reimbursement,” Michelson explained, adding that it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company to see if you’re eligible for reimbursement.
“Going forward, we plan to work closely with insurance companies to ensure more patients can access Getlabs and receive care when and where they need it,” Michelson added.
According to Masutto, you may want to speak with your healthcare professional to determine which diagnostic tests are appropriate and available for home testing.
“[People] should also discuss any risk factors, such as previous episodes of fainting due to blood tests, anemia, acute illness, or pregnancy, with their doctor to determine if they may experience any safe home testing,” Masutto said.
“Some tests require fast processing and are not accepted if they cannot be submitted within a certain time. This will vary depending on the patient’s location, the lab, and the phlebotomist’s schedule. »
Masutto added that if you decide to test at home, you should be well rested, well hydrated and calm during lab sampling to avoid any possible side effects.
Home lab tests, particularly blood tests, are a growing trend that could potentially close the care access gap for traditionally marginalized and underserved populations.
It can also be a convenient and potentially less expensive alternative to testing in a clinical setting.
“We believe this trend is here to stay. The pandemic has displaced and accelerated the emergence of home diagnostic tests. The growth of virtual healthcare and a more educated population means people are ready to reinvent the typical healthcare visit,” Dlott said.
“The convenience of these tests is transforming the diagnostic testing market with actionable diagnostic information, allowing them to become more proactive about their health and focus on prevention,” he added.
Still, home lab tests might not be the best choice for everyone, especially those living with or at risk for certain health conditions. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine if home testing is right for you.