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At-home testing can help with prevention

In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to pay for preventive care measures such as at-home tests, but with increasing pressure on healthcare services and a lack of funding for preventative measures, increasing numbers of people are doing exactly that.

Direct-to-consumer at-home testing kits existed before Covid, but not many people used them. But now the entire population has become accustomed to regular at-home testing for Covid. And Covid has also increased the level of health conscientiousness amongst the population. Consequently there is now a much greater interest in at-home tests, with private companies offering everything from vitamin and hormone tests to diabetes, cholesterol and thyroid function tests.

The widening availability of at-home tests can help empower patients to take a more proactive approach to their health. But the most significant potential benefit is that they can provide a way for people who are at risk of developing a major health issue to find out about it before it develops into an issue requiring medical intervention, which, in countries where health care systems are failing to provide adequate preventive care (pretty much every country besides Israel), is not to be sniffed at.

But there are pitfalls too. The accuracy of these tests is generally very limited, and patients interpreting the results in the absence of a doctor may, in a panic, jump to unwarranted conclusions and seek advice from already over-burdened systems. The British Medical Association asserts many of these tests make misleading claims about what they can do.

But while there is some validity to these concerns, they must be weighed against the potential benefits of at-home testing, which are significant. Preventive care is something which health experts have been pushing for for years, and while at-home testing provided by private for-profit entities may not what those experts envision when they do so, as long as they are properly regulated and patients are given adequate information on how to interpret the results, they have a role to play.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Joe Quiruga or call 0207 183 3779.