The Pros and Cons of At-Home Health Tests

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Health Tests

While there are several pros and cons to at-home health tests, the biggest one is that they’re not 100% accurate. While many manufacturers are releasing at-home tests to increase consumer access to better health care, these tests are not without disadvantages. While at-home health tests can help manage care, their discrepancy with patient trust can cause unnecessary anxiety or even postpone consideration.

Cost

If you have Medicare, you may be surprised that some insurers will reimburse you for the cost of at-home health tests. For example, Connecticut’s Medicare Advantage program covers COVID-19 at-home tests. These tests help identify infections and limit the spread of disease. However, if you don’t have insurance, the cost of at-home tests can be an issue. 

Before getting an at-home health test, you should understand how much it will cost. Usually, the test is less than $12, but some insurers only cover up to that amount. Fortunately, most tests are covered by insurance and can be bought online at a low cost. But, first, you should call your insurance provider to determine if your plan covers the cost.

Accessibility

The NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Tech program has taken steps to improve the accessibility of at-home health tests. The initiative has met the urgent testing needs of the pandemic while building upon existing infrastructure and collaboration with the community. For example, a sighted husband helped Chancey Fleet complete an at-home health test. However, she has been a vocal advocate for more accessible tests since late 2021. She soon realized that inaccessible tests are a pressing public health issue for people with disabilities and are particularly harmful to those living alone.

A federal website provides access to COVID-19 rapid blood tests, which can be easily completed at home. The initiative relieves a critical shortage and widely distributes essential tools for fighting the pandemic. However, there is no universal access to at-home health tests, which makes it difficult for the disabled community to use these products. For example, results must be more than a change of color to be easily understood by the visually impaired. The Royal National Institute for the Blind developed an accessible pregnancy test prototype that offered tactile feedback to the blind user, allowing them to know if she was pregnant or not.

Drawbacks

Increasingly, patients are turning to at-home health tests for allergies. But, these tests are not accurate enough to be used without medical supervision, warns Tania Elliott, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. And they can be challenging to interpret. They can result in misdiagnosis, unnecessary spending, and anxiety. The accuracy of at-home tests also depends on how the sample is handled and stored.

While at-home tests can save you time, they aren’t foolproof. The results of at-home tests vary from one patient to another, and there are no guarantees. Moreover, the results from these tests are usually not as accurate as those obtained by a health care provider. For this reason, it’s essential to consider the potential cost savings of at-home tests before replacing them for regular medical visits.

Cost compared to lab tests.

Generally, at-home health tests are not as expensive as laboratory-run ones but are not worthless. For example, while a laboratory-run blood test will cost $1, at-home tests are cheaper. Many commercially available tests cost less than $12. That’s why at-home health tests can be a great alternative to a lab-run test.

While health plans are still hesitant about the potential of at-home testing, the new technology is already available. Many are already buying them, especially for patients who don’t have time to visit a lab. Despite the convenience of home tests, health plans are worried that patient-collected samples might not be accurate enough. Furthermore, at-home health tests will increase the overall use of lab services, which will drive up costs.

Accuracy

Although at-home health tests may not be 100% accurate, they are convenient and are part of a national strategy to stop the spread of the H1N1 virus. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a preprint study to assess the accuracy of at-home tests for the H1N1 virus. They found that rapid antigen and PCR tests were similar in accuracy among children. The findings of this study indicate that at-home tests are a useful tool for catching the H1N1 virus and preventing its spread.

While the FDA has criticized some at-home health tests, the agency also stresses the importance of the tests’ accuracy, highlighting that false results could have a broad public health impact.