With the rise of COVID, many people are adapting to at-home testing. Companies are providing more at-home testing solutions and diagnostics as a result. More and more types of tests are becoming available each day, and consumers are enjoying the freedom of ordering labs they are interested in.
But what exactly are at-home lab testing kits? Are they reliable? What caused the recent spike in at-home test usage? In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know.
The Rise of At-Home Lab Testing in 2022
To better understand what at-home lab testing is, it helps to understand what made this practice so much more common in the last year or so.
What is At-Home Lab Testing?
When we heard the phrase “at-home lab testing”, we might think of COVID-19 tests. This is certainly part of this phenomenon. However, COVID’s influence on the growth of at-home lab testing differs from the growth of at-home COVID testing. Because patients had growing difficulty getting into hospitals and facilities due to safety concerns involving the pandemic, at-home lab testing began to become popular. Such testing could include blood testing and other forms of lab testing typically reserved for in-person appointments. With the roadblock of COVID, at-home lab testing has become quite popular.
But what exactly is at-home lab testing? At-home blood testing allows you to conduct a variety of diagnostic and preventative health screening tests without ever leaving your house. Many common illnesses are checked using blood testing, including blood sugar issues, viral and bacterial infections, anemia and other blood abnormalities, and even some kinds of cancer. Blood tests are commonly performed as part of an overall preventative health screening approach, and these tests can help you and your medical provider monitor your general health.
How At-Home Lab Testing Works
Depending on your provider and specific type of test, your own at-home lab test process may vary. However, the processes involved are usually similar and follow something close to the following:
- The test is ordered (either online or through your medical provider) and arrives at your home.
- When you place an order for an at-home lab testing kit, it is normally sent to the address you specify. The majority of patients may anticipate receiving their kit within a week. You don't need to go to a doctor's office or a lab to take the test; you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.
- Fill out the form to register your kit. To begin the test-taking procedure, you'll open your kit. You'll most likely find simple instructions for taking your exam inside the package, and the kit will include everything you need. If your kit doesn't come with instructions, your doctor will most likely give them to you during a controlled telehealth video visit. You may be required to register your test online with a unique ID number after opening the kit. This connects the test to your account on the internet platform or the website of your medical practitioner, where your findings will be displayed.
- Gather your laboratory samples. You'll need to collect blood, saliva, vaginal swab, or urine samples, depending on the test you or your doctor prescribed. Lab tests evaluate a wide range of biomarkers in your body to help you better understand various aspects of your health. Biomarkers may be found in a variety of bodily fluids, including blood, saliva, and urine. Everything you need to obtain a sample and send it to a lab for testing should be included in the at-home lab test you get. If a blood sample is required, for example, the test kit will include lancets to pierce your finger and deposit a few blood droplets into the indicated locations on a collection card or swab.
- From there, you will need to follow the instructions to store and seal your sample without contaminating it. Most at-home lab testing kits will include an envelope for shipping. However, depending on the test, your doctor may require you to drop the sample off at a lab or medical facility by hand.
- The lab will then process your sample. Once your sample arrives at the lab, it will be processed. Only use CLIA-certified facilities* and test kits to ensure that your sample receives the highest-quality lab testing.
- Once processed, you should be able to view your test results online or through your doctor. In most circumstances, you'll get your findings within a week after sending your sample to the lab. However, depending on the sample and the type of testing necessary, you may have to wait even longer for your findings. A physician will evaluate your results before they are shared. Your doctor would most likely want to see you right away if a test result is alarming because a biomarker value is dangerously out of range.
And that’s it! At-home lab testing is fairly straightforward and easy to do on your own or with the guidance of your doctor.
*Note: What exactly is a CLIA lab? The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments are abbreviated as CLIA. These are federal regulatory requirements that must be followed by any clinical laboratory that conducts testing on human material. The CLIA program establishes quality standards for laboratory testing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are the three federal agencies in charge of this program (also known as the CDC).
Is At-Home Lab Testing Reliable?
The majority of at-home blood tests are just as accurate as those performed in a medical office, laboratory, or hospital. All of these home test kits include everything you'll need, including detailed step-by-step guidance to ensure your sample is taken properly. Because most at-home tests are processed in CLIA-certified medical laboratories, you may anticipate the same results as if you took the same test in a traditional setting assuming you follow the instructions that came with your kit. On top of these benefits, many of these firms also provide telemedicine assistance or treatment, so if you test positive, aid is frequently included in the test fee.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of At-Home Lab Testing
There are many benefits to at-home lab testing. Traditional testing alternatives are onerous and time-consuming, but blood testing has long been the gold standard for health monitoring. Before at-home blood testing, you had to schedule an appointment with a doctor, order lab work, and then go to a lab to give a blood sample. Your findings would be submitted to your doctor once the sample was processed, requiring you to schedule yet another visit to acquire your test results. At-home blood testing avoids the need for office and lab visits by allowing you to order your own tests and receive results in as little as a few days.
Multiple vital exams may be taken without even leaving the house. It's private and easy, and such testing can relieve the healthcare system of a significant strain. At-home lab testing can also serve as the first step for uninsured Americans in the United States to gain access to healthcare.
There are also some downsides to at-home lab testing worth considering as well.
Medical experts' red tape is one of the barriers to at-home examinations. They argue that such tests are likely to be incorrect merely because they are carried out incorrectly. Many of these tests will not require FDA clearance, which adds to the ambiguity surrounding them. Some scientific concerns exist, such as when some specialists disagree with the testing techniques while others do not. Just as well, in certain situations, test findings must take into account characteristics such as the patient's age, family history, or other health conditions before being evaluated. As a result, you'll almost certainly require the assistance of a doctor to grasp the consequence.
Conclusion: Are At-Home Lab Tests Going to Become the Standard of Care?
This is a difficult question to answer. However, that answer could be “very likely.” Due to the pandemic, it is now preferable to do specific lab tests at home in order to minimize infection. Engineers have already developed methods to replace nurses with robots in blood tests (robots appear to be superior since their cameras can really see them), and contactless technologies are on the increase. Everyone in society would benefit from better diagnosis and more accessible health care.
Patients must be empowered in order for healthcare to thrive in the future, and testing kits may help people take ownership of their own health data. It's likely that the ease of at-home lab testing may become the industry norm in the United States, but only time will tell.
What do you think of the rise in at-home lab testing? Tell us what you think in the comments section.