See 10 Best Blood Tests of 2018

How Online Blood Tests Work—And Why

Gabriel RodriguezFeb 16, 2018

Getting your blood tested can be a huge hassle, but imagine if you could do away with the middleman and simplify the equation: no doctor's appointment or time wasted in waiting rooms, and no having to go back and forth between doctors' offices and the labs. Online blood tests offer just that, a simplified approach to blood work. By taking the quick and easy online route, people looking to get their blood tested only need to make an account with the online lab of their choice, go to one of their partnered labs, and receive their results via email or their online account. Some of these services also include tele-health consultations with licensed health practitioners that help patients make sense of their test results, further simplifying the process. While not replacing the many merits of visiting a doctor in the flesh, online blood tests are highly practical and can help you monitor and take ownership of your health.

How They Work

First, choose the direct-to-consumer (DTC) service you want to analyze your blood, and contact them. Most online blood testing websites are partnered with one or more labs throughout the country, so you can go to the nearest lab facility and have a blood sample taken there, no doctors appointment or referral required. Remember that depending on the type of test you want, fasting might be necessary, usually for a 12-hour period previous to sample collection. Blood sampling typically only takes about 10 minutes, so if you call the lab beforehand, you’ll likely be in and out of there in no time. Give it a day or two and voilà! Your results will be posted online to your account, or sent by email, along with any visual aids, comments, or suggestions.

Why They Work

One significant advantage of online blood tests is their practicality. Instead of waiting for your yearly checkup you can have a blood test done whenever you want and, depending on the kind of test, for less than the cost of a doctor's visit. That means you can order a test for a whole variety of reasons. Say you want to monitor certain aspects of your health before and after starting a new diet. Or maybe you want to know how that new drug your doctor prescribed you is affecting your body. Perhaps you’re a marathon runner that needs to be aware of any current health conditions before a big race. These are just some examples of situations when a DTC blood test service is a sensible idea. Additionally, several sites are embracing do-it-yourself (DIY) kits that allow customers to collect their blood, urine, or stool samples themselves, making the process even less of an inconvenience. Thanks to this streamlined procedure, you get your results quicker—most blood test websites will have results up in just 2 or 3 days—and save yourself two extra trips to the doctor’s office.

Another great advantage to online blood tests is personalization. Potential customers can find just about any kind of test there is, whether for tuberculosis, hemoglobin levels, lactose tolerance, thyroid function, hormones, etc. Some blood test websites also offer packages or panels that cover a variety of categories such as STDs, allergies, cardiovascular issues, metabolic problems, and just general wellness. Moreover, some companies even let you design your own tests according to your needs. That is especially useful for people working on specific areas of their health.

What You're Getting Into

Still, you might be asking yourself how you can trust a website with such an important matter. Aren’t licensed doctors there for a reason? And indeed, you’d be right to assume that for test results to be considered authentic they must first be approved by a licensed practitioner. That’s why online blood test sites make sure to hire certified health professionals who can accurately evaluate your blood sample, and analyze what it's saying about your health. Some websites will even offer online consultations to ensure their patients know what their results reveal and what they can do to improve problematic health benchmarks.

However, consumers should be aware that online blood tests are under no circumstances a magic alternative to visiting your doctor or local physician. Taking online blood tests can be a bit of a gamble, especially for high-risk individuals. For starters, how can physicians on the other side of a screen know your physical characteristics before advising you on preventive or remedial health measures? If your results show high or low values of a given protein, for example, but those values are typical for your body, said results would need to be analyzed by a physician already familiar with your health history. Or what if the website you are using doesn’t provide a thorough explanation of what the values detailed in your results reveal? Are you supposed to guess what each of those biomarkers means instead of going over them with an expert that can provide you with a prognosis and treatment options?

Online blood tests are no substitute for a regular check-up at the doctors'. Instead, the reason why they work is that they supplement said visits. If you have any doubts about your results or are worried about what they say and aren’t sure what to do, we urge you to head over to your local practitioner and ask him or her for clarification. Chances are you might have gotten your results quicker than if you had gone directly to the doctor's to get a referral for a blood sample. Online blood tests are empowering patients to be proactive about their well-being and take health matters into their own hands, yet consumers should remember to be mindful of the associated risks, and always count on the advice of certified health practitioners before making decisions regarding treatment.