3 Huge Patient Problems Solved by At-Home Health Tests ... and 3 Product Problems to Overcome

Dear readers, are you tired of me talking about doctors, hospitals, and healthcare products yet? As you all know, I'm fascinated by advances in the tech-meets-medicine space. Everlywell, which provides at-home health tests, was advertising on some of my favorite podcasts this week, and it got me thinking about problems solved by this newly available suite of products. 

Here are 5 patient experience problems solved by at-home medical tests.

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1. Patients take back control

Have you ever had a weird health concern that you wanted tested, and your doctor talked you out of it? I recently traveled to Latin America three times in a calendar year, and I wanted to be tested for Zika. My doctor thought I was crazy. Maybe it was a little crazy, but I had the time and money to pay for the test, and I wanted to curb my anxiety about it.

With at-home testing, the patient, not the doctor, gets to make decisions about which tests they take. If there had been an at-home test for Zika, hands down I would have chosen that option over the awkward conversations with my family doctor, and the sales pitch I had to give her to actual administer the test. 

2. Patients save time and money

This is the most obvious patient problem solved by at-home testing. No one wants to drive 20 miles to some esoteric doctor at 2pm on a Tuesday. All Everlywell tests are under $249, and if you have a funded HSA, there's no out-of-pocket expense. They have a whole section on their website that talks about how to use your insurance to pay for their tests. The test is sent directly to your home and returned via pre-paid envelope. You don't even have to go to the post office, a place which everyone knows I loathe

3. At-home testing curtails confusion

If you walk into your family doc's office in Boulder, Colorado and ask for heavy metals test, chances are the doctor will not blink at this ask. This is probably not the case in Linsborg, Kansas, where the doctor may react as if you've just asked for an exorcism. Depending on location and specialty, the patient experience at a doctor's office is not consistent. 

When you order a health test to take at-home, patients can read through the test description, what the test provides, and other specifics. There's no need to get a referral for a specialist, and no need to beg for a doctor's time in explaining what the test is - all of that information is available to review at your leisure. Perhaps the biggest advantage to taking medical tests at-home is the ability to review results and specifics as many times as the patient needs.

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3 Problems At-Home Medical Testing Products Will Have to Overcome

It's not all peaches and sangria for those working in medicine + tech. There are some huge challenges too, and I'm rooting for companies working in this space to overcome them.

1. Trust

Doctor = automatic trust for most people. It's harder for people to trust a website, as professional as it may look. This is especially true for older generations, for which ordering an online thyroid test is just weird and unbelievable. This will change with time, and probably more quickly than we think. My 69-year-old father now sleeps in strangers' homes via Airbnb. People adapt.

2. Regulation

23andme famously provided health reporting - until the FDA said na-uh - and then received limited FDA approval for some health reporting. "The feds didn't think 23andMe's information was clear or complete enough for consumers," according to Wired.  

When the government has a say in your user experience, user experience can suffer. There will be many battles ahead for tech companies working in this space. 

3. Simplification

Demystifying complex medical tests, terms, and conditions for all types of users in the general public is a challenge. People go to medical school for 8+ years in order to understand this material, and with the web or an app, you have about 10 seconds to make complex information understandable to users. 

As the FDA approves more and more at-home testing and reporting, companies providing these services will need to find ways to explain information in a simple way for users. For the record, I think both 23andme and Everlywell do a kick-ass job at this, and I have total faith they will continue to do so.