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Home Testing, Telehealth Disrupting Traditional Health Services

By Gustavo Rodriguez - nutriADN
Founder & CEO


By Gustavo Rodríguez | CEO & founder - Mon, 11/14/2022 - 15:00

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The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked this question: Is home testing the future of labs? Will we transition to a world in which specialized lab tests are mainly done at home?

Patients want the convenience they've experienced from telehealth and online shopping throughout the pandemic to extend to other aspects of their lives, even lab testing. This article refers to home testing as patients collecting samples and sending them to lab sites for testing rather than going into a lab site or having providers administer tests from the patient's home.

Pregnancy tests or finger-prick diabetes tests, for example, were game-changers. They are easy to use and highly accurate. A handful of other tests can do the same, delivering results with efficiency and ease. But there’s a vast difference between knowing if you’re pregnant or not and analyzing your own genetic test results.

Convention or Convenience?

The stakeholder who may have the greatest say in how quickly home testing becomes common is patients themselves. Patients are already purchasing direct-to-consumer tests like  genetic or food sensitivities tests. They value the convenience of taking a test at home and receiving the results digitally afterward.

In the US, an estimated 26 million consumers have sent DNA samples to leading commercial health databases to decode any mysteries in their genetic profile. Sample collection devices and transportation kits have made this possible; the process is safe, secure, non-invasive and makes it easy to collect biological markers, such as saliva, urine, stool or blood from a fingertip.

This preference for convention, which may go back to quality concerns, was greatly affected by the convenience of having these labs performed both at a drive-through or a patient's home. Also, home testing can only be convenient for patients if the industry can overcome the challenges of last-mile logistics, and quickly get these tests in patients' hands and back to the lab to analyze results.

There is also an important difference between over-the-counter (OTC) tests versus direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests. OTC tests are like pregnancy or COVID tests that are available everywhere — you take the test at home and get immediate results. With direct-to-consumer tests, we can collect the sample ourselves at home. The specimen is sent to a certified laboratory where it is analyzed by professionals with professional equipment. We then  receive the results directly from the lab. 

What type of tests can be done at home?

  • Nutrigenetics: saliva-based genetic test that enables patients and nutritionists to personalize nutrition, vitamin and mineral intake, exercise regimen, and other preventive measures of cardiovascular and chronic diseases.

  • Food sensitivities: analysis of more than 200 food responses and presence of candida albicans and yeast. This test solves the trial and error of the food rotation to identify any harmful foods that can cause digestive and immune disorders.

  • Hereditary cancer screen: BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most known genes for hereditary breast cancer. This test allows patients and doctors to know if there's any genetic predisposition to women and men for more than  24 cancers that have strong scientific evidence.

  • Non Invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPT): a non-invasive prenatal test, screens for the most common trisomies present at birth and a wide selection of other genetic irregularities. From as early as the 10th week of pregnancy.

  • Hormone imbalance: test that provides a full map of the 24-hour behavior of hormones and their metabolites. Diagnosis and treatment by lifestyle/functional medicine has great success. 

  • Epigenetics: behavior, environment and genes play an important role in our daily necessities. This test provides a full map for nutritional and environmental necessities to adjust in our daily lives and optimize our health.

  • Microbiota and gut flora: stool test that analyzes the genetic material of bacteria present in the body. We now know the relevance of gut health and overall health. This test provides the root-cause imbalance to be treated.

  • Medication response: genetic test that provides an individualized response to medications in cardiology, gastroenterology, mental health, neurology, pain management, oncology, pediatrics, and other specialties. Individualized prescription is now possible. 

  • Dermagenetics: genetic test that provides important information for preventive skin care and enables the personalization of nutrition and skincare ingredients to look for in products.

  • Other functional medicine-related lab tests that provide health professionals with individualized treatments and have convenient lab work done at the home of the patient. 

The Future of Home Testing

As COVID-19 generated a new trend in population behavior, home testing is likely to continue to be a topic of interest. 

We're watching several trends that may indicate accelerating home testing adoption:

  1. Advancements in home testing sample collection kits that limit the potential for error when patients go through the process by themselves. New tests have other biomarkers that can enable innovative and precise results.

  2. The e-commerce market is expanding home diagnostics testing. 

  3. Laboratory involvement in home testing. Shifts in technology and patient preferences  could motivate health systems to create a home testing business that lends provider credibility to at-home options.

  4. Follow-up medical services, such as interpretation telemedicine consultations and an action plan based on patient’s results. 

  5. Increased accessibility and affordability of lab tests that can easily be administered at home, paid for out-of-pocket, and serve as an addition (rather than a substitution) to regular testing.

At-home laboratory testing has obvious advantages. Anyone can have multiple important tests without even leaving their home. It’s private and convenient. Moreover, such tests can remove a serious burden from  the shoulders of healthcare systems. These can also become an important complement for prevention strategies related to  chronic diseases.  

It's important to consider all laboratory tests with a complementary consultation by a health professional. They should have the preparation to provide correct interpretation and action plans designed individually. One way nutriADN is contributing in this effort to democratize this knowledge is by creating nutriADN Academy for all health professionals who want to be empowered to provide genetic and functional medicine tests. I hope to see you all there!

Photo by:   Gustavo Rodriguez

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