What you should know about self-ordered lab tests

In Arizona, a new law was passed this last month that allows for any Arizona resident to be able to request lab tests without an order from their medical provider.

Lab test results usually influence more than 70 percent of recommended medical therapies and other health decisions, according to Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Wellness Centers in Arizona. They tell you a lot about what’s going on inside of you, which has some wonderful applications for a proactive patient. But there may be a few things to be wary about if you go it alone for lab testing.

Here are some things to think about:

What’s great about the new law

Allows you to be more proactive in your health
Let’s face it, sometimes seeing your doctor can be a trying experience. I hear concerns from my Health Living Workshop participants about wait times, available appointments being a week or more, and of course, how often they feel like their doctor’s office would rather install a revolving door than to sit down with him or her and answer questions or discuss their concerns. With the structure of the medical world today, doctors are pressured to see more and more patients a day. So how does this law help both you and your harried provider? You can be proactive with your health care by obtaining lab test results on your own. Then you can decide if you need to get seen sooner for a concern, or if you can wait for your next wellness exam. It’s like getting your homework done before coming to class. Saves time in the exam room, and makes your conversation with your provider much more focused and fulfilling.

Getting results fast with quick turnaround time
Many labs pride themselves on giving patients their lab results in short order. The reason for this is so that a patient can have the information that he or she needs so that they can take timely action or co-create a treatment plan with their medical provider. And this is also a nice feature, as many patients can feel that their medical offices act as “middle man” between them and their lab results. Sometimes patients hear from your medical provider’s office when they get the results. Sometimes it gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. Other times a medical provider assesses the results, doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and moves on with his or her day and full roster of patients to see. That can make many people feel like they’ve been left hanging. Normal or not, so many people still find it nice to know how they fared. But by ordering directly from a lab, you get your lab results handed right to you within a week’s time.

Peace of mind
Are you one of those people who comb WebMD, self-diagnose, and worry yourself to death about what strange or exotic disease you may have? Hold the phone. Being able to get a lab test done on-demand can give you answers – and might alleviate some of your fears.

What to be wary about

Wowee, can lab work be expensive! Some can up upwards of $1,000 for one test! And with this new law, Arizonians are made fully responsible for those costs. So if you personally order lab tests, be advised that insurance will not cover your lab fees if not ordered from a health care provider.

Taking the right test
While we may think we know what lab tests are available, there are different tests that are better and more accurate than others depending on what is being tested. Do you know what your options are, and what is best suited for what you are testing for?

Understanding your results
Ok, you’ve figured out what test you need and get your results back. There’s a lot of numbers, letters, and percentages on it. Do you know what all of that means? And do you know how they relate to each other? Don’t worry, because most people don’t. That’s a situation where it is best to consult with your medical provider about the results, so that you know exactly what you’re looking at – and then come up with plans on what to do next, if needed.

Have an opinion? Feel free to express yourself about this new law in the comments below!


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