Do-It-Yourself Blood Testing
Edition: April 2002 - Vol 10 Number 04
Although a scathing article on group purchasing organizations in the New York Times' March 4 edition drew the attention of many in the supply chain, another article in the newpaper's March 12 edition could have even farther-reaching implications.
The article describes the growing popularity of retail stores where customers can go and order blood tests for a large number of medical problems all without the intervention of a doctor. One company opening up such stores is Teterboro, NJ-based Quest Diagnostics, the largest diagnostic laboratory in the country. In addition, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of existing commercial and hospital labs are now offering testing directly to consumers, according to the article.
Many states have laws preventing patients from ordering their own tests and receiving results without a doctor's requisition, according to the Times. Direct-to-consumer laboratories in those states sometimes skirt the laws by hiring doctors to sign the requisitions, usually without ever seeing the patients.
To get tested, people can walk into one of the storefront labs or order their tests online at websites such as HealthcheckUSA.com or Questest.com, in which case they have their blood drawn at a local traditional laboratory. Popular tests include screening for cholesterol and other heart disease markers, HIV, Lyme disease, thyroid problems, liver and kidney function, prostate and ovarian cancer, allergies and sexually transmitted diseases, says the Times.
Proponents of retail testing believe it gives patients more control over their health and may help in the early diagnosis of diseases. But some doctors' groups, such as the College of American Pathologists, frown upon it. ''We have concern about the lab tests being ordered by an individual who may not fully understand the consequences of the test and the potential pitfalls in test interpretations,'' Dr. Paul Bachner, past president of the organization, was quoted as saying.