Monday, January 31, 2011

DAY 119 – Quiz: Is it Safer to Order Your Own Cholesterol Test, or to Own a Handgun?

A more serious question is, should American adults have legal access to ordering medical testing on themselves? I won’t keep you in suspense; the answer is, yes. And, in fact, in some arenas, we already do, and access is growing by leaps and bounds. But, there are those who believe it to be dangerous for adults to order tests for themselves.

First, lest there be any question, my foremost concern is for patient and public safety. And, would I urge careful consideration, and if uncertain, consultation with a trusted functional medicine practitioner? I would.

Secondly, I was not born yesterday. There are two issues here; safety and money, and unfortunately, money may be the biggie.

As adults in America, we are free, within certain constraints, but free, to purchase and drink as much alcohol as we wish, even with the dangers and deaths associated with its consumption. We can purchase and drive cars with their associated risks. In some states, we can purchase semi-automatic weapons, and even carry them in public. Have we, as a society, lost our marbles? Are alcohol, cars and guns safer than a citizen ordering her or his own medical tests?

And then there’s the money. Simply put, there is a lot of money paid each year for ordering tests, performing tests, reviewing test results, and discussing results with patients. When patients can get directly to tests and results, some medical providers are cut out of that work and income. Historically, testing laboratories have been locked out from marketing to the public directly. Now, with patients being able to avoid the cost of an office visit or two, while avoiding the insurance-inflated test costs (vitamin D – insurance billed at $220 – cash for as low as $39), laboratories see an opportunity to sell more tests, in some cases with an improved profit margin.

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Worried About Cholesterol? Order Your Own Tests”, by Anna Wilde Mathews, covers some of the issues involved in the growing trend of people ordering their own medical tests without a doctor.

Mathews states that doctors say patients “shouldn't cut their physicians out of the loop” and that doctors “can provide key guidance before a patient orders a test about whether it is worthwhile and can explain the numbers after the results are in.” I hope I am not too cynical, but most people that I know that are in business, as are physicians, would rather not get “cut out of the loop” for any reason. The part about discussing tests and results with patients is just plain fantasy. I interview patients in my office each day, and with the rarest of exceptions, they have no idea what tests have been ordered, what the tests mean, what the results were, nor what a rational plan would be to correct the imbalances found. Many patients report never having received any information about their test results.

On the Direct Laboratory Services website, the FAQ, “Do I need to see my healthcare provider to get tested?”, is answered with, “Direct access testing allows greater participation in one's own healthcare. Yes, your healthcare provider can refer you to DLS, but it’s not a requirement.” What they mean is, NO.

Direct Laboratory Services offers, directly to the public, a large number of tests for the following areas:
- Allergy Testing – Anemia – Arthritis – Autism – Cancer - Cardiovascular/Heart Health – Diabetes – Gastrointestinal – General - HCP Panels – Hormones – Immunology - STD's - Men's Health – Miscellaneous - Test Packages – Thyroid – Vitamins - Women's Health

American adults already do, and should have the right and access to ordering and purchasing medical testing for themselves. So, as Direct Laboratory Services states on its homepage, “Start Shopping”.


  1. Wow, do I even need to know my total cholesterol?? I had no idea such information was so scary in the wrong hands. (But, my doctor DID tell me to quit reading all that stuff on the internet!!!) A specialist also would not give me information on the results of a test because "I wouldn't understand".

  2. Yeah! That's the ticket, stop reading! Trust your doctor to figure out all your health needs. Or, wake up, take a breath, and take charge.
    Dr. Young