As the public health landscape evolves, longstanding systemic inequities are being brought to the forefront, underscoring a real need to expand access to high-quality and real-time care. We must now grapple with whether longstanding systems and solutions actually work for patients and practitioners, and, if they aren’t, how can we reimagine new and more effective ones?
Industry discourse has shifted to patient-centric and personalized models of care. This shift is apparent in the field of at-home diagnostic testing. At-home COVID-19 tests opened the floodgates for a thriving at-home diagnostic market across nutritional health, reproductive health, and more, with patients eager to take a proactive role in their own health. Naturally, this prompted questions of whether remote diagnostic testing should be brought into the next iteration of the telehealth revolution.
The case for at-home blood testing
More and more research suggests that widespread, at-home testing, including blood testing, is worthwhile, with the potential to deliver profound and lasting benefits for patients, health care providers, and institutions alike.
For many, the conventional clinic-based blood draw experience is burdensome and inaccessible. It often means taking time away from work or childcare, traveling outside of one’s neighborhood, sitting in a waiting room or standing in a long line, enduring the pain of needle insertion, and then waiting days or weeks for results—and potentially repeating the process if multiple samples are required.
But with a recent wave of scientific and technological advances, we now have a remarkable opportunity to improve patients’ blood testing experiences into one of ease and convenience that will ultimately decentralize vital health data, decrease practitioner workload, and open more clinical research opportunities. This has been demonstrated through a recent large-scale surveillance study between the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, Thorne HealthTech, and Drawbridge Health, where study participants were tested for the prevalence of previous COVID-19 infection using remote blood samples with a novel participant-administered blood collection device. The results found ease of self-administration (without a clinician or any specialized training), a near pain-free experience, and a 99.9 percent success rate for lab processing. Unlike traditional blood sampling, samples from the self-administered blood collection device were stored at room temperature for up to 28 days using cold-chain free-storage technology, potentially presenting an ideal solution for both patients in remote areas or for participants enrolled in multi-site clinical trials.
Harnessing the potential of precision and prevention wellness
Blood testing has the potential to reveal myriad powerful diagnostics about the current and future state of one’s health—scientists have only just scratched the surface on this field of research. Making at-home blood testing a ubiquitous practice can pave the way for improved precision and preventive wellness. This approach can grant patients access to real-time, personalized insights about their health, the efficacy of their medications, and their risks for certain diseases or health conditions, including monitoring health changes as they age. Instead of waiting for an annual visit, or until a doctor brings it up, or putting it off altogether, routine at-home blood testing could help patients take their health into their own hands.
Realizing this technology will require continued research on diagnostic capabilities and automated technologies to test and analyze these novel diagnostics, as well as trials to assess their efficacy. Collaboration from health and wellness companies, biotech companies, academic and medical institutions, and research laboratories will also be required every step of the way.