Written by Bill Finger, Managing Director, Kineticos
According to a report by MedCity News, the direct-to-consumer lab testing market is expected to grow from the $15 million market that it was in 2010 to over $350 million in 2020. A great deal of this growth can be attributed to the fact that more and more people are taking control of their own health these days. The prospect of learning more about your health through lab testing is intriguing to people, and with access to a wealth of information on the web, people are becoming more educated on lab testing options.
This recent growth of direct-to-consumer testing offers anyone the opportunity to order tests that they think are relevant to their lifestyle or even specific disease states. For example, DirectLabs® offers wellness profiles, cancer screening, cardiac profiles and other tests directly to anyone who orders them. Even diagnostic giants like LabCorp and Quest are evaluating the direct to consumer market and partnering with companies to offer testing to patients. Similarly, 23andMe offers genetic testing to determine ancestry as well as health profiles. These companies represent just a small sampling of companies that are taking advantage of a relatively new market.
Taking it one step further, Good Start Genetics, a company that offers carrier screening for cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy, has taken direct-to-consumer testing to Amazon. Yes, Amazon! The technology deployed is next generation sequencing, a very complex method touting a very low cost at $149.
To no surprise, many health care providers believe that they should oversee the management of lab medicine. Their rationale is that the interpretation of most lab tests requires additional information only obtained through historical medical records. In efforts to address some of these needs, companies like Good Start Genetics are including genetic counseling services as a part of their offering.
Several challenges come to mind when thinking about the direct-to-consumer lab testing sub-segment. What should a patient do with the information once they have it? Do labs offer relevant interpretive guides along with the report so people can fully understand the results? Are trained medical professionals available to answer questions about the results and recommendations for next steps?
I am supportive of people making their own decisions on whether to order testing directly from a lab versus through a physician. In fact, I’ve had a recent spike in friends and family that have come down with health issues. Because of my background, I’ve received a lot of requests to help interpret their lab tests and if I happen to be knowledgeable in a specific area, I have no issue providing high-level guidance. However, the millions of patients that do not have such easy access to a lab geek who provides free advice may be better off with a physician managing their health.
There is certainly a growing population with the capacity to understand the benefits and risks of ordering and reviewing their own lab tests. However, it’s important for individuals evaluating their own results to understand that the tests selected and corresponding results do not always provide the all of the sought after information. As mentioned, most tests require some history to effectively provide insight into results and medical records are not something that many people have laying around the house. Even with my 25+ years of expertise in this arena, I still choose to consult with a healthcare provider on available testing options and more importantly, any lab results.
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Bill Finger, Managing Director of Kineticos’ Diagnostics Practice, brings 20 years of diagnostics and laboratory experience to the team. His team is focused on helping diagnostic companies maximize their commercial potential at the corporate and product levels while ensuring companies operate in an efficient manner.