Home Blood Spot Testing: A Giant Leap in Self-Directed Healthcare
Do any of these situations sound familiar? You just finished a weeklong vacation and yet you are completely exhausted and cannot figure out why. You just started a new diet or exercise program, or perhaps you started or changed the dosage of a nutritional supplement and are wondering how it is affecting your metabolism. Or maybe you have a chronic illness and want to keep a closer watch on how a prescription drug affects your blood chemistry. So, what do you do?
Of course, the first thing most of us must do is call our doctor. The only trouble is, as usual, he/she is booked solid and you can’t get an appointment for a month. You then cancel any plans you might have had so you can book the next available time slot. After waiting for a month, you take time off from work, drive to your doctor’s office and perhaps wait some more once you get there (you have doubtlessly been through this routine in the past).
Once you have actually gotten a face-to-face meeting with your doctor you must next convince this “gatekeeper” to order the tests you originally wanted over a month ago. If you are lucky, your doctor will agree to order the tests and you may have to set up yet another appointment and take more time off from work to actually have the tests performed. Finally, you have to wait for the doctor to receive the results and perhaps schedule yet another appointment to discuss them with you And that is IF the doctor agrees to do the tests. Sometimes your doctor will not! Now what do you do - reason with them, argue, throw a tantrum, go find another doctor? None of these options are very appealing.
But, what if you could simply go online and for a small fee order a test kit that allowed you to take any number of blood tests right in the comfort of your own home - anytime you wanted to? What if the technology was so advanced yet so simple that all it required was a simple, painless, pin-prick that produced a single drop of blood? And finally, what if the results along with interpretive data came directly back to you - no doctors, no waiting, just results when you want them? Well, those questions are no longer just a “what if.” New technologies have made on-demand, home blood testing a reality.
Once the sole domain of diabetics and other patients with very specific testing needs, the ability to have any number of common blood tests done at home and on-demand has hit the general healthcare marketplace. Companies such as ZRT Labs have developed and/or employed a series of new technologies that have solved the complex problems that have prevented or limited the viability of home blood testing in the past.
The first problem with the traditional method of blood testing is that it requires quantities of blood obtainable only through a venous blood draw. This is not something that can be accomplished at home without the proper equipment and considerable training (not to mention overcoming the psychological barrier of sticking a needle into your own arm). The second problem is that many such blood samples require complex packaging and chemicals to keep the sample stable while being transported to the testing facility.
The new home blood testing processes employ technologies such as liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry that allow these tests to be performed with very high sensitivity and specificity using minute quantities of blood blotted onto an absorbent, paper-like medium that keeps the sample stable for a lengthy period of time.
Simple, affordable home blood testing is a real game-changer in the arena of informed, self-directed healthcare. For the first time broad access to home blood testing, on a scale similar to that enjoyed by persons who routinely test their blood sugar, is available to virtually everyone and it removes doctors as the gatekeepers of these tests. Even private insurance companies and Medicare are beginning to understand the potential for improving healthcare and decreasing costs and are slowly beginning to expand coverage of home blood testing much as they do for diabetics or persons taking anti-coagulants.
This is an exciting development for anyone interested in taking greater control over and responsibility for their health through practicing informed, self-directed, healthcare. This is an especially exciting prospect for heart disease sufferers who may want to more closely and conveniently monitor their cholesterol, thyroid function, hormones, supplements, etc. as part of a personalized and intensive heart disease prevention and reversal program.
Looking out for your heart health,
Chris Kliesmet, also known as HeartHawk, is a heart health activist and former patient expert writer for HealthCentral. As a heart disease sufferer with many family members lost to the disease, Chris specialized in topics within heart health, including medication, prevention, and testing. He has written for other community sites such as HeartConnect.com, and wrote for his own blog, HEARTHAWK: Your Heart Health Eye in the Sky. (Photo: University of Wisconsin)