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How to Choose an Online Blood Test Service

Ilia ApolinarisFeb 16, 2018

Online blood testing is a growing trend that gives patients access to health-related information they would not regularly be able to obtain. Providers of the service claim that being able to order and keep blood test results helps users observe and track patterns to prevent illnesses.

These online services make it easy for consumers to browse an online menu of blood tests, make their selection, and get them without having to visit their doctor for a medical order. If you're considering purchasing an online blood test, there are many service providers available. However, due to the popularity of these services, there’s been a skyrocketing of laboratories that are running these diagnostic tests.

So, what should you look for when choosing an online blood testing service?

The first questions you might ask yourself will probably deal with pricing. How expensive will these tests be? Now, keep in mind that because they're optional, (i.e. a doctor is not ordering them), it's likely that your medical insurance won’t cover the cost. Hence, unless money is no object, comparison shopping should be one of your priorities.

We checked five online blood test services to compare the cost of a basic cholesterol test, which measures the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, HDL and LDL levels, as well as Triglycerides. We found that prices can vary greatly. Of the companies we surveyed, the least expensive option was $17 and the most expensive charged $78. In addition to the cost of the test, some services will also add charges for specimen collection, and they may or may not offer consultation services. Once you know which tests you want, remember to check if there are any additional fees before placing your order.

The payment options available at the time of check out are a crucial factor to consider as well. As mentioned before, it is likely that your insurance won’t pay for these tests. In addition to accepting major credit cards and PayPal, most tests can also be purchased using a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Moreover, some of the service providers we checked encourage their clients to submit reimbursements forms to their medical insurance company. To find out if this will work in your case, you need to contact your insurance provider.

Depending on the type of test and the blood test service provider, you can decide to collect the sample yourself or visit a nearby laboratory to have a health professional collect it for you. Another option is to have a health professional visit your home or workplace and take the sample there though this will usually have an additional cost. Hence, after deciding the tests you want to order, check the options available.

If due to the type of test or company you select, the specimen must be collected in a laboratory or collection center, the number of centers near you should also weigh in on your decision. Searching for labs or centers near you is very simple. Search options vary by website and include filter options such as the type of service offered, state, and ZIP code. You might also be given a choice to make an appointment.

Another important consideration is whether the lab where the tests will be done holds any accreditations. Surprisingly, when we were comparing costs, the most expensive service did not mention conducting the tests in CLIA-certified labs. The regulations for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988 include practice guidelines to monitor testing in laboratories that handle human specimens, which helps ensure that all clinical testing follows regulatory procedures. Finding out beforehand if the service you are using to run your tests follows CLIA guidelines will ensure that testing is done following industry standards. Whether or not the facility follows CLIA regulations might directly influence the accuracy of your test results.

In addition to the testing laboratory standards and sample collection, where and how the blood is drawn can also affect the quality of your results. However, since most of these specimens are collected in a laboratory setting, this should only be a concern if you are taking the sample yourself. If you are collecting the specimen, follow all the instructions included with your test kit, check the company website for the FAQs and instructional videos on how to collect the sample or contact customer support.

You could also consider how long it will take for you to receive the results. Keep in mind that time varies by type of test, but basic tests range between 1-3 days. For example, the results for the cholesterol test mentioned above has company “A” emailing the results in 5 business days, while company “B” website states that results will be ready in 1-3 days. We spoke to a service representative of another company and were told that results for our cholesterol test could be ready the next day.

Now that you have your test results, what are you going to do? Most, if not all the online services recommend that you discuss the results with your doctor. Once the results are ready and if you complete a request form, some companies will email a copy of the results to your doctor. Others offer consultation services with physicians or dietitians to help you better understand and use your results. Consultation costs vary by type of physician and length of consult and.

The issues of security and privacy are additional factors to consider. How secure is your medical data on an online server? What will the company do with your records? Does the HIPAA Law offer clients any protections when using this type of online service? To learn about the privacy assurances the service provider offers, you should read the company’s Privacy Policy, as well as the Terms and Conditions of Use. This section details what happens to your medical information, your personal identification information, and how the company will use and protect that data.

Go through the tests menus, check costs and accreditations, and make sure to read all terms and conditions before committing to service. We can help you choose the best service, so remember to read our reviews of online blood test services. Stay healthy!