The Future of Medicine: How DIY Diagnostic Tests Empower Today’s Patient

These days, you can get virtually everything you could possibly want or need with just the click of a mouse or the push of a button. Craving a hot meal but you don’t want to pause your movie? There’s an app for that. Want to meet someone new, but you’re an introvert and don’t like the bar scene? Online dating has made it possible. Need a brand new wardrobe but hate the mall? You know what to do. However, there’s always been one niche that has remained largely untapped, and that’s the entire realm of modern healthcare.

While there is a veritable plethora of ways you can hack your health from the comfort of your own home, it seems as though science has ultimately reached its limitations on what it can do for you when it comes to keeping tabs on your physiological biometrics. Sure, there are fitness trackers and social media communities dedicated to helping you stay in peak health, but they’re no replacement for routine doctor visits. The need for scheduling regular check-ups has always prevailed, undoubtedly limiting your autonomy to a certain degree.

Today, though, revolutionary breakthroughs in technology have completely transformed the way we approach our wellbeing. Digital innovations are now giving us the opportunity to diagnose and treat a myriad of health concerns – all without needing to make the arduous trek to the urgent care center across town. Science fiction has become science fact. Now, this does come with a caveat: e-health is no replacement for actual encounters with a real-life physician. But thanks to at-home diagnostic tests, the patient is now finally back in the driver’s seat.

What Kinds of Tests Are Available?

Curiously enough, at-home diagnostic tests go back much further than you might initially realize. In fact, the earliest known medical test was none other than the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) pregnancy test. This ancestor to contemporary testing paved the way for a number of other testing options, including blood glucose monitors and HbA1c tests for people with diabetes, blood and salivary screenings for common infectious diseases (such as hepatitis and HIV), and even genetic testing (which can help identify elevated predispositions to hereditary conditions).

How At-Home Diagnostics Work

These at-home tests serve a variety of purposes, but the primary one is to afford the patient a quick and reliable way of getting answers to their pressing healthcare concerns. Rather than needing to wait to schedule a doctor’s appointment and stew in their anxiety, you can now simply walk into any pharmacy around the country and pluck your choice of test off the shelves. With your test in tow, you’ll then have the ability to quickly and accurately determine the presence of illness and begin taking proactive measures to reclaim your health.

Depending on the type of test being administered, there can be several different methods of attaining these results. Some at-home tests use urine samples, though this technique is fairly limited in its scope. Another popular method is through either a nose or a cheek swab, though some tests may only require a small amount of saliva. Finally, a small amount of blood may be used. To get the sample, a sterile needle (called a lancet) would pierce the skin to draw the blood, then the specimen would be sealed and sent to a laboratory.

Can These Tests Replace Medical Care?

It’s important to note that at-home diagnostic tests are not a substitution for actual medical care. Instead, you should think of them as a supplement to receiving medical treatment, something you can use as a means to open a dialogue between yourself and your healthcare provider. Rather than replacing your doctor outright, they are a remarkably useful tool to help provide you with key insights into your health. When used this way, their benefits are numerous and their value can’t be overstated.

Indeed, while some of these tests may bypass your doctor altogether, the majority of them actually work in conjunction with your already-established medical team. Many test manufacturers have physicians on hand to review your results and relay them to you. Conversely, they may work alongside doctors and can forward your results to the clinic of your choosing. Once your doctor has the outcome of your testing in hand, they are able to follow up with you. From there, you can begin the process of outlining a treatment plan that best suits your unique needs.

It’s nothing short of amazing how far humankind has managed to push itself in the past few decades in its quest for improved health. Even scheduling your appointments with your doctors can be completed online, making it easier than ever before to stay one step ahead of potential contagion. Between these at-home diagnostic tests and effortless telehealth visits with your provider of choice, we are more empowered than ever before. The only task left remaining, therefore, is learning how we can use this incredible resource to benefit not only the individual -- but also all of society.
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