Well being Exams At Your Fingertips
Wish you could skip the hassle of going to the doctor’s office to find out if you are low on vitamin D or have a sluggish thyroid?
You’re lucky. These days, you don’t necessarily need a doctor script to test things like your thyroid hormone levels or nutritional status. With home tests, you can check your health on your own terms.
Take responsibility for testing
At home laboratory tests, sometimes called direct-to-consumer tests, are marketed and sold directly to you (without consulting your doctor). They are generally available online and are legal in most states in the United States.
Some home tests use a small finger-stick blood sample. Others may use samples of piss, feces, or saliva, or a swab from your nose or cheek. You can collect these samples yourself using the materials included in a test kit. Typically, you will then send your samples to a designated laboratory (or a company acting as an intermediary) where they can be tested for a variety of health markers.
However, new test models for the home are emerging. Up-to-date is Vessel Health, which recently launched a wellness test where you pee on a high-tech test card and read your results in minutes using a smartphone app. There are currently around a dozen health parameters measured, such as your hydration status, ketone production, and magnesium levels.
“Our wellness test is really a home test,” says Jon Carder, CEO and co-founder of Vessel. “In many cases, an at-home test just means collecting your sample at home. Then you have to send it to a lab and wait three to five days for your results. “
Types of tests
You can choose different tests at home depending on what you want to know about your health. Here are different types.
23andme.com’s Home DNA Health Test examines your genetic risk for developing certain diseases. Other genetic tests could help you manage your healthy lifestyle. For example, genopalate.com’s test can help predict the best foods for you.
To find out if you are lacking certain vitamins and minerals, choose a test that measures the nutrients you are interested in, such as: B. B vitamins. These tests are available on websites such as shiphealth.com and everlywell.com.
Microbiome tests use a poo sample to identify the types and amounts of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Biohmhealth.com’s test also evaluates your mycobioma – the fungi that can affect your health.
You can check yourself for conditions like low thyroid function or sexually transmitted diseases thanks to home testing from sites like everlywell.com. Read the test instructions carefully so that you are aware of the factors that can affect your results.
Accuracy and reliability
“There are high-quality direct-to-consumer tests available,” says Kara Fitzgerald, ND, director of the Sandy Hook Clinic in Newtown, Connecticut. “But they are interspersed with those who are not so good.” Have a few brawls before buying.
Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, co-founder of BIOHM Health, recommends reviewing the scientific accuracy of the tests. For example, have they been developed using validated, state-of-the-art technology? Visit a company’s website for details. When a company claims its laboratory test technology is a trade secret, it’s a red flag.
You can also look for laboratory certifications and regulatory approvals, but requirements vary. The FDA typically doesn’t review at-home tests that are designed to aid general well-being or that have little impact on medical care. However, FDA approval is required for genetic testing that assesses your risk of developing disease.
Many home tests use labs that are CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certified. This provides some assurance about the accuracy and reliability of your test results. “When I started Everlywell, I worked with CLIA-certified laboratories across the country that were already doing tests like this for medical clinics,” said CEO Julia Cheek.
Genetic testing know-how
At home genetic testing can be especially difficult to navigate. See how clearly the results are communicated and how comprehensive the test is for health conditions of interest. You can usually review a sample test report online.
“At-home genetic testing may only look at a few variations of your DNA that could increase your risk of breast cancer, for example,” said Sara Riordan, certified genetic counselor and president-elect of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. “In contrast, doctor-ordered tests can look at entire genes or a range of genes that are involved in breast cancer risk.” These will give you a clearer picture of your risk.
According to Riordan, a genetic counselor can help you evaluate genetic testing at home before buying. Visit findageneticcounselor.com and check with your insurance company about coverage for this service.
Data protection and insurance
Read company privacy policies to assess the risk to your personal information. “A company should be transparent about how it protects your genetic data and your personally identifiable information like your name and address,” says Riordan. “You should also disclose whether and how you pass this information on to third parties.”
For example, a home genetic testing company might sell your data (excluding personal data) for research or drug development purposes, says Fitzgerald. This will help keep the cost of the test relatively low for you. But you have to think about whether you are happy with it.
According to Riordan, a federal law prohibits health insurers from using genetic information to decide whether you’re eligible for insurance. However, this does not apply to other types of insurance, including life insurance. You may be asked about genetic test results in your application, which may affect your eligibility or your insurance costs.
Test at home or not?
Home testing may not be the best option in every situation. Here are some questions to help you make your choice:
- Could you get the test from your doctor and have it covered by your health insurance? In many cases, home tests are cheaper, but you usually have to pay for them yourself.
- Does the testing company offer medical advice based on your results? And if so, does it cost extra?
- Do you feel comfortable navigating the tests on your own? Self-tests run the risk of misinterpreting your results. This can lead to unnecessary worry or lead to unnecessary follow-up testing.
Some tests, such as Your doctor may not offer you a microbiome test. An at-home test might help in this situation. An at home test can also be useful if you want to monitor certain health characteristics more often, such as your hydration or vitamin D levels.
Even so, it is generally advisable to share test results with your health care providers at home. This will keep them informed and help you take appropriate action based on your test results.
The future of home testing
Home testing has grown rapidly in recent years, and experts believe it will continue to increase. “I think if consumers mandate that they want to be in the driver’s seat of their healthcare system, the tests at the consumer will be even more robust,” says Fitzgerald.
Additionally, companies report that home testing has gained new interest during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve certainly seen a lot of people become aware of home lab tests as the pandemic has made it difficult to see a doctor,” says Cheek. “And now that a lot of people have tried, they tell us they don’t want to go back to the old system that is frustratingly out of date in terms of accessibility and convenience.”
Testing for COVID-19 at home?
Yes, you may be able to test comfortably and safely on your couch. The FDA issued the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) during the pandemic to allow certain coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests that allow you to take a body fluid sample at home and send it to a lab for analysis.
- Where do you get the tests from?: A handful of companies sell them online, including everlywell.com and vitagene.com. In some cases, the tests can be reimbursed by health insurance.
- How they work: The tests will check for a current infection by testing your saliva or nasal swab sample for DNA from the coronavirus (specifically SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19).
- Who is eligible: You fill out an online questionnaire to find out if you qualify. Some tests are not allowed in selected states.
As of press time, a few companies, including Vessel Health, are working to obtain EUA for coronavirus antibody tests at home. These would use a finger-stick blood sample to look for a previous infection.
An antibody test can be useful if you suspect you may have had COVID-19 but are not sure. Remember, it can take one to three weeks for antibodies – proteins your body makes to fight a specific infection – to become infected with the coronavirus. If you have the antibodies, it is currently unclear whether and for how long this could protect you from future infections.