In the last Heart Scan Blog post, I listed the poll results on success vs. failure in trying to obtain requested blood work through doctors. The results of that informal poll revealed that a substantial number of people encounter resistance to one degree or another in trying to obtain blood tests.
But the world of self-directed testing is growing. In addition to your ability to circumvent your doctor by getting your own blood work done, you can now:
–Obtain many imaging tests on your own–Heart scans can be obtained without your doctor’s involvement, for instance. The ultrasound screening services, like that offered by Lifeline, mobile services that provide carotid, abdominal aorta, and osteoporosis screening services; full body scans, and others.
–Identify and treat some conditions–Internet information has gotten quite powerful to assist individuals in recognizing when a condition might be present. (However, this is also a landmine for trouble if not properly used.)
–Genetic testing–While just in its infancy, direct-to-consumer genetic testing is now offered by two outfits that I’m aware of.
–Unusual laboratory tests–e.g., heavy metals, omega-3 fatty acid content, cancer markers.
One drawback to the emerging world of self-directed testing: There is no insurance coverage. However, this will become less and less of an issue as time passes, since it is clear that most Americans will need to bear a greater portion of healthcare costs in future, since some conventional services may even be rationed for cost containment; higher copays and the emergence of medical savings accounts, providing the individual with more control over how healthcare dollars are spent; competition in self-directed healthcare services, which will reduce costs. Imagine, for instance, several more direct-to-consumer services to obtain blood tests appear. They will need to compete on price and service.
While my colleagues are terrified of the potential for abuse of such tests, my reaction is the opposite: I am enormously excited by the potential for individuals to seize more and more control over their health.
Of course, with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. But the long-term net result will be, in my view, a healthier, more satisfied healthcare consumer with reduced healthcare costs.
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