How Home Health Tests are Making Healthcare Accessible — And What is Still Left to Be Done

As we approach the 2020 presidential election, the question of how to manage the rising costs of healthcare is more pertinent than ever. While politicians opt for single-payer options or Medicare for All within their platforms, companies are continuing to look for ways to make healthcare more affordable and accessible — regardless of political change.

Home health tests are becoming an increasingly popular resource for people looking to gain better insight into their physical health regardless of their health insurance status. While these tests are opening a number of doors for underinsured Americans, a number of holes exist in the way these tests function.

What are these tests capable of, and which holes still exist in making these tests an invaluable healthcare resource? Iron Bridge - an industry leader in EHR integration - is here to break it down for you.

Home Health Test Capabilities and Uses

Understanding How Home Health Tests Work with a Leader in EHR Integration

Home health tests
Source: 23andme

We’ve all seen commercials for at-home testing through and 23andMe. To use these tests, customers simply swab the inside of their cheeks, zip the sample into a bag, and ship it back to the company for testing. Shortly after, they’ll have results that tell them about their ancestry, health, and physical traits.

While these companies may be among the first to make this type of at-home health testing popular, we often forget about crucial technology for many women that were commercialized in the late 1960s: the at-home pregnancy test. The home pregnancy liberated women to take a more front-seat approach to their own reproductive health and opened a number of doors for the home testing industry as a whole. 

More than fifty years later, the market for DIY medical tests is projected to reach $340 million by 2022. These home health tests are designed to increase patient access to medical services while reducing costs. The home health industry has expanded beyond ancestry and pregnancy tests, now providing at-home STD screening, food sensitivity tests, thyroid tests, HPV tests, and more. 

These tests are made appropriate for home testing because many of them are read by a single biomarker — or the presence of a single change in test results that tell you whether or not you test positive for the condition (like hormone levels for pregnancy, the presence of the HIV virus, or IgG reactivity). While the tests are still being expanded for more advanced diagnostics that do not exist on a binary, these tests are capable of providing accurate results to patients without ever leaving the house.

Depending on the company administering the tests, results are provided via a secure portal or an app (or in cases where medication is needed immediately, via phone call). Additionally, some companies provide a printable PDF ‘doctor’s version’ of results that you can share with your healthcare provider.

What challenges in healthcare are home health tests solving?

Making Healthcare Accessible, Affordable, and Simple

Accessible Healthcare
Source everlywell

Home health tests can either be purchased online or in drug stores. According to a leader in EHR integration, these home health tests are designed to bring health tests directly to consumers, which at its core helps increase accessibility and affordability. 

These home health tests have proven to be especially valuable for people in rural parts of the United States who often have to travel great distances to access healthcare. Instead of being able to visit a PCP or urgent care facility, many of these people in rural areas resort to emergency rooms for non-emergency testing. Not only is this expensive (especially if the patient is uninsured), but this can bottleneck emergency rooms and lead to long wait times. Not only would the patient be paying for the test and medication once they are seen, but will also be paying bed fees, physicians’ fees, and more that can add up to be hundreds or thousands of dollars per visit.

Home health tests free up waiting rooms and save patients money while providing relatively accurate results. Not only is this a huge win for patients and providers, but for insurers as well — so much so that some insurers will reimburse the costs of home health tests when deemed medically necessary. In other words, many of these tests are considered reliable in the eyes of doctors and insurers, making them a great alternative to visiting a physician.

What issues still exist with home health testing?

Using EHR Integration to Make the Most Out of Home Health Testing

eHR Inttegration and blood tests

It’s clear that in many cases, these home health tests are considered to be reliable enough to use for actual medical testing. However, a number of issues exist in the way we use home health tests that lead to a number of problems within the industry.

The first issue arises with a patient’s ability to interpret results at home. Patients who are less educated may not understand how to read their results effectively — like reading a “positive” STD test as a good result, not a positive reading for the biomarker. Efforts must be made to make interpretation of results equally as accessible in order to fully reap the benefits of home health tests.

Additionally, the industry is primed and ready for FDA regulation. While drug testing through the FDA is a rigorous process, devices like home health tests require less rigorous testing. They roll out much faster, but people may still have trouble interpreting the results. In other words, a portion of FDA approval must be dedicated to the usability aspect of the tests: a standard that will inevitably be raised as tests become more advanced and can diagnose additional health issues.

Finally, a major opportunity comes in the form of putting this information to use. Right now, patients either hear from a practitioner from the home health test company itself or must extract test results and bring them directly to their primary care physician. However, EHR integration opens up a number of doors for streamlining the communication of these results. Integrating home health test results with an EHR would make it possible to share these results with physicians with ease. This sharing would be fast and secure, allowing physicians to take a look at results in the scope of your complete health history, allowing for more thorough diagnostics.

EHR Integration and technology are expanding the way we tackle healthcare in a number of ways. Think it’s time to make interoperability a priority for your EHR or practice? Get in touch with the team at Iron Bridge today to get started.

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