- While at-homediagnostic testing is not new, a handful of testing companies have taken it one step further.
- Some diagnostic testing companies are now offering in-home appointments that include a blood draw.
- They send mobile phlebotomists to your home to have your blood drawn and send the sample to a lab.
- This trend in healthcare could help reduce barriers to care and lead to better diagnoses and management of health conditions.
You’re likely familiar with at-home diagnostic tests, including pregnancy and COVID-19 tests. These types of tests allow people to get medical information from the safety and comfort of their homes.
Despite medical advances in at-home testing, blood tests still need to be performed by trained personnel, meaning most people have to go to a clinic or physician’s office.
But getting to a clinic can pose barriers to care for some older adults, people with disabilities, and those who live in areas lacking access to medical facilities.
To help make blood tests more accessible, the at-home lab testing industry is widening its reach. Increasingly, you can make an appointment for at-home visits by certified phlebotomists for a wide range of diagnostic tests.
How most at-home lab tests work
At-home lab testing typically involves using a kit to collect biological samples, such as saliva or urine, and interpreting the results without the guidance of a medical professional.
For instance, companies like CVS Health, Everlywell, and offer an array of at-home test kits that screen for various health profiles and conditions. These may include:
- food sensitivities
- sexually transmitted infections
- vitamin D levels
- thyroid function
After you receive the test kit, you collect the samples and send the completed test to a lab for analysis and interpretation.
But some at-home lab tests require a healthcare professional to order a test kit for you.
Cologuard, for example, is an at-home lab test that can detect blood in the stool and DNA markers for colorectal cancer.
At-home lab testing is on the rise
Although many at-home lab tests have been available for decades, they have become increasingly utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The notable increase in at-home testing may be attributed, in part, to the widespread availability of COVID-19 tests, school and employer-mandated testing, and the desire to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
An April 2022 report from the CDC suggests that at-home COVID-19 test use peaked in January 2022, with 11% of the surveyed population reporting at-home test use within the previous 30 days.
According to a February 2022 report, the at-home test industry is projected to be worth over $2 billion by 2025.
Moreover, a recent market research analysis suggests that the global at-home testing kits market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1% from 2022 to 2029.
At-home blood testing vs. clinical lab testing
As with lab tests conducted in a clinical setting, your healthcare professional orders at-home lab tests.
But at-home blood testing requires 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 complete.
In general, many of the at-home lab tests available include most of the same diagnostic and health condition monitoring tests you would typically receive in a clinical lab.
At-home lab testing has some distinct advantages:
- You don’t have to leave your home, which could help you get the testing you need to help 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 in private, with just you and the mobile phlebotomist present. This may help reduce some stigma-related fears associated with certain conditions.
- You can get results faster, which may lead to earlier treatment.
- At-home testing can be more convenient and fit within your schedule.
Drawbacks to at-home lab testing include:
- Some insurance companies do not cover at-home lab tests.
- The test could be incorrectly handled or stored, leading to inaccurate results.
- Some positive results require a visit to a healthcare professional for treatment, which may require repeat testing.
- These services are not available in some regions.
“There is room for error, particularly with at-home testing,” Dr. Jeffrey Dlott, senior medical director of diagnostics services at Quest Diagnostics, told Healthline.
“Drawing one’s own blood can be daunting and anxiety-ridden for many. And if it’s not done right, results can be inconclusive and require the collection process to be repeated. For many, a blood draw by a trained phlebotomist may be preferred over pricking one’s own finger at home.”
How at-home testing can help remove barriers to care
A 2017 review suggests that 60–70% of clinical decisions are affected by laboratory test results. What’s more, an estimated 80% of guidelines aimed at diagnosing or managing a health condition require laboratory testing.
This means easily accessible medical tests may be vital to ensure that health conditions are managed appropriately.
According to Dr. Kerri Masutto, board certified internal medicine doctor and vice president of clinical operations at the at-home testing company Lifeforce, testing at home might remove barriers to care for people who:
- have mental health conditions, physical disabilities, or mobility concerns
- are caregivers of children, elderly adults, or people with health issues
- would have to take unpaid time off work or utilize accrued paid time off for their healthcare
- have limited access to medical testing facilities
- are experiencing financial disparities
- manage a busy schedule
- have health conditions that negatively affect their immune system or are at increased risk of illness or infection
- may have privacy concerns about testing in a clinical setting
Older adults may also benefit from the convenience of at-home testing.
For instance, a University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 74% of older adults surveyed believe at-home tests are more convenient than testing at a medical facility.
How does at-home blood testing work?
Many at-home testing companies provide at-home lab appointments that you, your healthcare professional, or your caregiver can schedule online.
Depending on the service, a certified mobile phlebotomist may come to your home to draw blood.
Once the samples are collected, they’re sent to a third-party lab like Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics for processing. Your insurance information is also collected and shared with the labs accordingly. Your test results may be made available through the laboratory, your healthcare professional, or Apple Health.
Kyle Michelson, CEO of Getlabs, a company that provides in-person lab collection by licensed phlebotomists, told Healthline that at-home blood testing allows 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.
“In today’s day and age, convenience is not a luxury but a necessity. Once in the home, our specialists can collect diagnostic data, including labs, vitals, biometrics, liquid biopsies, and much more. In doing so, we improve adherence and help ensure patients receive preventive care during the critical window for early detection.”
Other companies offering in-home phlebotomist services include:
- National Phlebotomy Provider Network
- Phlebotomy On Wheels
- myOnsite Healthcare
Are at-home lab tests covered by insurance?
It’s a good idea to check with your insurance provider to see if at-home tests are covered by your policy.
Michelson said the laboratory testing portion is generally — but not always — covered by insurance.
Getlabs, for example, charges an out-of-pocket convenience fee starting at $35 for same-day visits.
“In certain cases, patients can submit their receipt to their insurance provider for reimbursement,” Michelson explained, adding that it’s recommended to check with your insurance company to see if you’re eligible for reimbursement.
“In the future, 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.
Is at-home testing right for you?
According to Masutto, you may wish to talk with your healthcare professional to determine which diagnostic tests are appropriate and available for at-home testing.
“[People] should also discuss any risk factors, such as previous fainting episodes from blood draws, anemia, acute illness, or pregnancy, with their doctor to determine if they are safe to have testing at home,” Masutto said.
“Some tests require prompt processing and are not accepted if not able to be dropped off within a certain timeframe. This will vary based on the patient’s location, lab, and phlebotomist’s schedule.”
Masutto added that if you decide to test at home, you should be well-rested, well-hydrated, and calm during the lab draw to avoid any possible side effects.
At-home lab testing, particularly blood testing, is a growing trend that could potentially bridge the gap in access to care for traditionally marginalized and underserved populations.
It can also be a convenient and potentially lower-cost alternative to testing in a clinical setting.
“We believe this trend is here to stay. The pandemic has shifted and accelerated the emergence of diagnostic testing within the home setting. The growth of virtual healthcare and a more educated population means people are ready to re-imagine the typical healthcare visit,” Dlott said.
“The convenience of these tests transforms the diagnostic testing market with actionable diagnostic insights, allowing them to become more proactive about their health and focus on prevention,” he added.
Still, at-home lab testing might not be the best choice for everyone, particularly those living with or at risk for certain health conditions. Talk with your healthcare professional to determine if at-home testing is right for you.
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