Ordering a lab test.

Ordering his or her own lab tests may be helpful to a patient, save some time, and could possibly be less expensive; however, none of these benefits can replace a physician’s care.

Relying on their knowledge and experience, highly trained medical professionals have ordered diagnostic test to either confirm or to further evaluate a possible diagnosis. A registered nurse is not permitted to order lab tests, such as cholesterol or glucose, for a patient without a physician’s authorization Patients, however, now have the ability to order these type of lab tests for themselves.

Most physicians have experienced at least one patient who has presented a self-diagnosis based on an Internet search. Currently, these same patients could also present lab results as well. Healthcare professionals may worry that patients might misinterpret test results and possibly overreact to some results while failing to recognize important details of others.

Programs are emerging that assist patients who cannot find a physician or specialist in their area, in obtaining lab testing, interpreting test results, and assisting with the development of an action plan.  Websites also are available to help patients interpret test results. Maybe a patient wants to confirm that his or her medication is working and keeping levels normal or perhaps he or she needs peace of mind or wants to practice preventative medicine while watching for warning signs. Will having test results “in-hand” offer a better communication opportunity between the patient and physician? Will patients feel more in control of their health care?

Closeup of a lab test.

Dave Dexter, President and CEO of Sonora Quest Laboratories, stated that consumer-directed testing, commonly referred to as “direct access testing” (DAT), is proving to be successful. His company continues to experience more than a 15% growth per month in this sector. Mr. Dexter believes that consumers who order their own lab tests represent a mechanism of deeper engagement and patient empowerment. Sonora Quest does offer a large number of tests to the general public but does not offer tests that tend to be “complex” and “difficult” to interpret.

How far will patient access go? Currently, the public can purchase over-the-counter acid-suppressing drugs such as Nexium 24HR or Prilosec OTC that were previously unavailable to the public. What about ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol)? At one time, all of these drugs were only available by prescription.  And, medical tests? In the past, if a patient needed his or her blood pressure checked, an appointment was made, and the doctor or nurse used his or her stethoscope and a mercury sphygmomanometer to check pressure levels. Today, blood pressure can easily be checked at home using digital monitors.

Ordering his or her own lab tests may be helpful to a patient, save some time, and could possibly be less expensive; however, none of these benefits can replace a physician’s care.

Kirsch M. Should patients order their own lab tests? http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2017/02/patients-order-lab-tests.html. Published February 16, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017.

Lab Tests You Can Order (Without A Doctor). https://wellnessmama.com/60245/lab-tests-you-can-order/. Published February 28, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017.

Graedon J. Why Should You Order Your Own Blood Test? https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2016/06/20/why-should-you-order-your-own-blood-tests/. Published June 20, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2017.

Shaywitz D. Trump Wants To Return Power To Patients, And Consumer-Ordered Lab Tests May Be Perfect Place to Start.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidshaywitz/2017/02/06/trump-wants-to-return-power-to-patients-consumer-ordered-lab-tests-may-be-perfect-place-to-start/#17047517bd1a. Published February 6, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017.

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