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HomeHealthIs It the Right Fit for You?

Is It the Right Fit for You?

March 11, 2024 – The market for at-home medical diagnostic testing has experienced significant growth in recent years, reaching a staggering $45.6 billion as reported by NASDAQ. This market is projected to continue expanding at a rate of over 10% per year until 2031.

While the demand for COVID-19 testing initially sparked this trend, a wide variety of new home tests for different conditions are now readily available. Do-it-yourself genetic tests for ailments such as thyroid disease, STDs, heart disease, and even tests that detect inflammation for early signs of conditions like Alzheimer’s are cutting-edge options.

Convenience plays a significant role in the popularity of at-home testing, also known as direct-to-consumer testing. Individuals who suspect they have conditions like sleep apnea can opt for at-home evaluations instead of undergoing uncomfortable hospital sleep studies. Furthermore, they can receive a CPAP machine if necessary.

Dr. Brooke G. Judd, from Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine, warns that while accessible, at-home evaluations are not foolproof.

In discussing the metrics provided by these devices, such as sleep time, sleep stages, and blood oxygen levels, Judd emphasizes that the algorithms for these metrics evolve rapidly and that they still provide estimates rather than precise values.

Additional research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that companies producing at-home tests do not ensure the same privacy protections as a doctor’s visit and often require consumers to take responsibility for accuracy.

Continue reading to learn more about at-home medical testing and determine if it aligns with your needs.

Are At-Home Tests Safe?

Yes, as long as the test has received FDA approval.

According to Dr. Mark Fendrick from the University of Michigan, the FDA prioritizes safety when it comes to direct-to-consumer tests, emphasizing their thorough evaluation.

How Do You Take an At-Home Medical Test?

The process for an at-home test mirrors that of tests conducted at a doctor’s office.

Typically, the steps include:

  • Purchasing a test from a store or online.
  • Collecting a DNA sample (saliva, urine, or blood) following the test kit instructions.
  • Mailing the sample to the test manufacturer for analysis of specific genetic markers associated with medical conditions.
  • Receiving results through a secure web portal, which may be interpreted by a medical professional.

Specific Tests and How They Work

Sleep Apnea

Harvard Medical School estimates that a significant portion of sleep apnea studies now utilize home evaluations. The FDA-approved sleep apnea test known as WatchPAT is a disposable test involving finger and/or chest probes, with telemedicine chat consultations with a doctor. The device is used at home, and results with recommendations, including potential CPAP machine use, are provided following doctor review. Research indicates high accuracy rates for WatchPAT in diagnosing sleep apnea, and it is often covered by insurance.

Inflammation

Home inflammation tests, available under various brands, are priced between $25 and $100. These tests typically involve a finger prick and mailing the blood sample to the manufacturer.

EmpowerDX offers a popular home test measuring C-reactive protein levels in the blood to assess inflammation and immune system activation. Some kits, like those from Everlywell, also assess vitamin D levels for immune system health.

The prominent Alzheimer’s home test from Quest Diagnostics, introduced as an early diagnostic tool, measures beta-amyloid protein levels in the blood.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including HIV

STD testing kits can be purchased for around $100 from brands like CVS, typically necessitating urine sample submissions with results available in 5 to 16 days.

Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism

Thyroid blood test kits, such as those offered by Paloma Health, should be CLIA- and CAP-certified for accuracy. Samples are submitted, and digital results are obtained within days.

Waiting for Results

The anticipation of at-home test results can be anxiety-inducing.

Dr. Fendrick suggests preemptively considering the potential outcomes of the test and how you will respond to them. In the case of serious conditions, in-person testing by a healthcare provider may be preferable for quicker results and immediate medical guidance.

Ensuring Accurate Results

No test, even with high accuracy rates, can guarantee 100% accuracy.

Dr. Mary T. Gover emphasizes that all medical tests, including direct-to-consumer testing, have the potential for inaccuracies and false results.

Research points out the lack of clarity in follow-up procedures for at-home tests. Fortunately, most individuals understand the significance of sharing these results with their doctors for appropriate action.

In instances of positive at-home test results, contacting a doctor promptly for confirmation is vital. Proper treatment can then be initiated based on validated results, ensuring accurate medical care.

Dr. Gover mentions that patients who previously received false positive diagnoses felt heightened anxiety about the condition, even though it was ultimately not present. Consulting with a doctor to process emotions and receive clarification can mitigate such emotional effects.

While at-home testing offers convenience, seeking professional medical advice is advisable for serious health concerns. Expert guidance and care remain crucial for maintaining optimal health and safety.

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