There was an article in the MIT Technology Review detailing a companies plans to sell in home testing equipment to help people “self diagnose” common medical problems.
Consumer diagnostic tests have been around for a long time. Pregnancy, ovulation, HIV and fertility are just a few of the tests you can perform at home. You can even buy a test to determine if you have a UTI but treatment usually involves a visit to the doctor’s office and a more precise test is run so that the appropriate antibiotic can be prescribed.
The difference with this new line of testing is that the company releasing the testing plans to let you check for UTI or strep throat but to get the results you must log onto a website or call a number where you’ll be routed to an online health care provider. The provider will then prescribe treatment.
The company hopes that people will be attracted to the convenience and lower cost. A typical emergency visit is around $650, an office visit is around $70 but this company plans to only charge $10 for the test and $35 for the physician assessment if needed.
I like the theory but I’m not sure I believe the practice will be good for anyone in the long run. There’s a great deal of benefit in having an established relationship with a primary care provider, there’s also benefit from sitting in an exam room with that provider and looking them in the eye when explaining your symptoms both of which are lost in an “online” encounter.
Will the process create misuse of antibiotics or keep people from seeing a provider who might uncover a bigger problem? Who knows but the potential exists. Let me know what you think, complete this survey.