Direct-to-consumer (DTC) laboratory testing permits consumers to order laboratory tests directly from a clinical laboratory without necessarily having to work with their healthcare provider. Currently nearly 40 states allow consumers to order some or all of their laboratory tests. This model of lab testing is relatively new in the United States and little is known about its impact on consumers.
However, many health care providers are concerned that consumers do not have enough background knowledge and information to make sound decisions based on their test results. Consumers might not understand what tests to order or how to interpret the tests. It is unclear how often consumers share their results with healthcare providers and what action, if any, is taken based on the results. In addition, frequent test ordering in a normal population increases the chances of false (positive and negative) results. False results may give consumers a false sense of security when tests are normal or result in unnecessary alarm when tests are abnormal.
Recently an article in the medical journal JAMA expressed the opinions of many in the medical field that DTC testing may actually increase the cost of healthcare in the US.
However, many feel that there is value in allowing consumers to order laboratory tests through DTC laboratories and that there is not enough data to conclude that DTC testing adversely affects patient health or healthcare costs. This was expressed in a response to the JAMA article.
In order to gather data on the effects of DTC laboratory testing, a survey is being conducted to identify the reasons American consumers use DTC laboratories. The survey will quantify how frequently consumers of DTC test services order tests, define the most frequently ordered DTC tests, identify resources consumers use to understand DTC test results, and evaluate consumer engagement with health care professionals based on DTC test results.
If you have ever ordered your own lab tests from a direct-to-consumer laboratory, you may be eligible to participate in a research study from Washington University about direct-to-consumer lab testing.
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to learn more or contact Dr. Ann Gronowski at 314-362-0194.