The media is bombarding us with lists of all the different diseases we can get if we eat a certain foods. Google allows us to search for symptoms at the click of a mouse. Consequently we are becoming increasingly worried about our health. And we want to find out as soon as possible if we have any ailments. We are impatient for answers and we have the moment to pay for a definitive answer to our health concerns.
It’s no wonder health testing kits are becoming more and more popular in the UK. But, are home blood, urine and stool tests the silver bullet? Are there pros and cons of using a kit instead of going to a GP? This article hopes to give a balanced view of the pros and cons of self testing for health problems.
Types of Test
Pretty much any type of blood, urine or stool test that is available through the NHS is now available online. The most well known self test is a pregnancy test. It uses chemicals on a strip of absorbent material to react with hormones in urine to show quite accurately if you are pregnant. This methodology has been taken a step farther to allow for in-home drug test, urinary tract infections and diabetes tests.
Urine isn’t the only thing you can test. Blood is also commonly analysed in-home, or by being posted to labs to find out things like susceptibility to heart attacks, allergies and liver function. Hair and fecal matter can also be tested to find out the different things about our health. DNA testing is also becoming more common online.
This wealth of tests is surely a pro for home health testing.
The first con of home testing is reliability. You might argue that the home tests are exactly the same as those used in hospital labs, but the one thing you don’t have (unless you pay hundreds of pounds to have your blood/urine/stool tested at a lab with a report posted back to you) is a professional analysing the results. It’s going to be you in your bathroom looking at a colour reaction in a vial or on a piece of card, trying to compare it to a colour chart that has been provided with the test. If you are using the test as first stage triage before you bother a health professional for further tests, this may be a con. If you are going to see a GP anyway but just want a bit more evidence, home testing is a huge boon.
Home testing may win over in-surgery testing on this one. Home blood tests contain blood prickers that are sterilised and are guaranteed to be used by you. One small mistake in a surgery could mean contamination. Also, picking the skin to draw blood opens up the body to infection. Nowhere has more dangerous bacteria and viruses rolling around than a hospital. That’s where all the ill people hang out. We don’t mean to be scaremongers, hardly anyone gets ill from a blood test in a hospital, but it’s still a small pro for home testing.
We live in a fast moving society. We want results now. Home testing definitely wins this one. You can order a test online for next day delivery and either have results in front of you in minutes, or post of a sample for a lab to process and mail you back comprehensive results. Compare this to waiting days for an appointment with a GP. She takes a sample and sends it off to an already overflowing backed-up lab where it could be weeks until they get your results. You then have to book another appointment to see a GP to get your results. And she won’t give you the full results either, she’ll just say whether they are positive or negative.
The NHS is paid for by us. We have already paid for numerous blood tests and consultations. There is an argument to use them rather than pay for your own tests. You can’t beat free. The pros for paying for a home test is speed and convenience. It’s hard to put a price on that.
Some tests are very personal. Drug tests, DNA tests and STI tests can be contentious. Many people would rather do some of these tests themselves, get the results and have a bit of a think about how they proceed. Home testing gives you that breathing space. Once you are in the hospital system, you’re in it. They do have patient confidentiality, but health services are big organisations with thousands of people having access to your data. If you want health privacy home testing is a massive pro.
I hope this helps you think about whether home health testing is for you. It’s not for everyone. Please see our Author resource box for information on how to contact us for more information.