Are diet changes producing the desired cholesterol level decreases? Has your family’s health history put you at risk for a serious illness? How are your medicines affecting your body?
For years, the answers to these questions depended on a doctor ordering a lab test and explaining the results. But now companies offer consumers the opportunity to test without a prescription. Ordering your own lab tests, also called "direct access testing" can be helpful, but it is important to do it responsibly. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) recommends that patients:
Patients may wish to order their own lab tests if they are worried about their health and want to supplement the care they get from their doctor. The ASCP notes that the people most likely to seek direct access testing are those who are in their 60s and 70s, well educated, and who want to be more involved in their healthcare.
Patients might also choose to order their own lab tests if the results might be sensitive, such as for drug tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases. However, since the results of these tests could effect your doctor's treatment choices for you, it is important to share test results with your doctor, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
The ASCP warns that there can be several difficulties associated with ordering your own lab tests, including:
Also, some doctors worry that patients will incur unnecessary costs by testing just for their own peace of mind. You should be aware that your health insurance may not cover the costs of your tests.
If you want to order your own lab tests, be sure you use a reputable lab and be sure to discuss any results with your doctor. Of course, its always a good idea to consult with your doctor first, since your doctor may be able to give you more information about why certain tests are advisable or not.
Consumers request the tests they want online or by phone and receive a form to take to a local lab, where blood is drawn or a urine sample is collected. Labs doing the tests may be the same ones used by hospitals and doctors’ offices.
Reports compare the person’s values to a reference range, which aids in determining whether the results are within normal limits. Consumers also usually receive basic information about the tests and are encouraged to share results with their doctors.
Lab Tests Online
National Library of Medicine
The American Society for Clinical Pathology policy statement: direct access testing. American Society for Clinical Pathology website. Available at: http://www.ascp.org/pdf/DirectAccessTesting.aspx. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Document: consumer access to laboratory testing and information. American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science website. Available at: http://www.ascls.org/?page=Pos_Pap_8. Published July 2004. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
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