Self-Directed Testing

In the last Heart Scan Blog post, I listed the poll results on success vs. failure in trying to obtain requested blood work through doctors. The results of that informal poll revealed that a substantial number of people encounter resistance to one degree or another in trying to obtain blood tests.

But the world of self-directed testing is growing. In addition to your ability to circumvent your doctor by getting your own blood work done, you can now:

--Obtain many imaging tests on your own--Heart scans can be obtained without your doctor's involvement, for instance. The ultrasound screening services, like that offered by Lifeline, mobile services that provide carotid, abdominal aorta, and osteoporosis screening services; full body scans, and others.
--Identify and treat some conditions--Internet information has gotten quite powerful to assist individuals in recognizing when a condition might be present. (However, this is also a landmine for trouble if not properly used.)
--Genetic testing--While just in its infancy, direct-to-consumer genetic testing is now offered by two outfits that I'm aware of.
--Unusual laboratory tests--e.g., heavy metals, omega-3 fatty acid content, cancer markers.

One drawback to the emerging world of self-directed testing: There is no insurance coverage. However, this will become less and less of an issue as time passes, since it is clear that most Americans will need to bear a greater portion of healthcare costs in future, since some conventional services may even be rationed for cost containment; higher copays and the emergence of medical savings accounts, providing the individual with more control over how healthcare dollars are spent; competition in self-directed healthcare services, which will reduce costs. Imagine, for instance, several more direct-to-consumer services to obtain blood tests appear. They will need to compete on price and service.

While my colleagues are terrified of the potential for abuse of such tests, my reaction is the opposite: I am enormously excited by the potential for individuals to seize more and more control over their health.

Of course, with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. But the long-term net result will be, in my view, a healthier, more satisfied healthcare consumer with reduced healthcare costs.

Comments (3) -

  • Rich

    10/28/2008 4:06:00 PM |

    I offset the cost of my self-directed testing by making sure I fund my Medical Savings Account sufficiently (deducted from my paycheck in equal installments).

    October/November is the benefit enrollment period for many folks, so if you have a MSA available to you, you need to enroll or re-enroll now.  Maximum IRS allows one to elect is $8000/year I believe.

    I calculate mine to cover my total estimated self-directed testing and all doctor/rx copays for the upcoming year.

    Although you are paying with your own $$$, at least it comes out of pre-tax dollars, which makes it a very good deal.

  • Anonymous

    10/30/2008 2:55:00 PM |

    One of the things I love about reading these blog comments is that I get ideas.
    Now I will set up a Medical Savings Account for myself.
    Fortunately for me, Group Health subsidizes the cost of blood glucose home testing.
    (I'd register, if Google Blogger could remember my password.

  • stephen_b

    10/31/2008 1:50:00 AM |

    I get yearly tests done through I've been happy with the service they provide, and the prices seem reasonable.