It used to be that patients would have to go see a doctor to get lab tests ordered to check their cholesterol or metabolism, but now, thanks to at-home testing companies like Everlywell, those tests (and 30 others, including STI tests) can be ordered online or picked up at some big box retailers. We chatted with Dr. Frank Ong, Everlywell’s Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, about what it means to put patients in charge of ordering their own lab work — and combing through their own testing results — vis a vie the Everlywell platform. As consumers demand more control over their healthcare dollar and the experience it buys, is there a point where patients risk getting in over their heads? How have doctors been responding to patients who come in armed with their own lab results? We check in on how at-home testing kits are ‘testing’ the reaches of patient-led care.
As physicians, our primary concern is ensuring the health and safety of our patients. The Food and Drug Administration has offered a new concept to make more prescription drugs available over the counter (OTC). Proponents claim it could improve patient health and outcomes, reduce patient costs and promote proper medication use. We are skeptical that it would achieve any of these goals.
The American Medical Association is concerned about patients taking certain drugs without physician involvement — especially patients with chronic diseases. No evidence has been offered that the innovative technologies underpinning this concept would actually allow patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma or migraine headaches to self-diagnose and manage these serious chronic medical conditions safely on their own.
As a chronic condition evolves, treatment changes are often needed from a physician. Without physician involvement, patients might take the wrong medication or dose for their needs, potentially causing harm. Self-diagnosis and treatment conflict with the care coordination and disease management that new health care payment and delivery models are trying to achieve.
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