It’s been more than 35 years since the original at-home pregnancy tests came on the market. Since then, there has been a surge of home-testing options, driven by a fervid interest in wellness, expediency, cost-efficiency, convenience, and the ease made possible by technology.
The technology behind at-home diagnostics
Rapid test results came to fruition through lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA). Immunoassay is a technique to analyze and measure concentrated substances, such as antibodies and hormones. Lateral flow immunoassay is a diagnostic device that can be configured to work with a variety of liquid samples, including blood, urine, serum, and saliva. Lateral flow devices (LFDs) can take on different forms that are compact and simple to employ, such as a dipstick or a housed cassette. LFDs are engineered to be intuitive and can be operated with little training, so testing can be performed by a patient at home as easily as a technician in a laboratory or a health care practitioner in a clinic.
Home-use tests are instrumental in ascertaining the presence of drugs, including marijuana, opiates, cocaine, PCP, ecstasy, methadone, and oxycodone. Questions may arise like how accurate are at home drug tests for detecting opiates and other addictive substances. Accuracy can be assured when the tests are conducted properly. Here are a few tips for testing:
- Read the instructions thoroughly in advance.
- Have a timer on hand.
- When possible, use the first-morning urine when it will be most concentrated.
- Collect the sample before you imbibe in your morning beverage to avoid diluting the sample.
- Place the testing device on a level, flat surface.
- Avoid touching the test for the duration of processing time.
Direct-to-consumer health kits are available to identify markers for a range of conditions from sexually transmitted disease to colon cancer. Home-testing kits monitor blood glucose, blood pressure, and antibodies that indicate Lyme disease. Additionally, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) program, Lab Tests Online, explains that “researchers have developed phone applications and device attachments that analyze blood, saliva and urine samples for cholesterol, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other conditions. Eventually, home tests may be able to send the results directly to your health care provider in the same manner as a text message.”
Fitness devices are designed to align with an individual’s fitness level and goals. They serve to stimulate activity, drive consistency, and ultimately improve healthy behaviors. These fitness trackers may take the form of a watch, ring, bracelet, or clip-on with the capacity to track steps, distance, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Some devices have a built-in GPS.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines telemedicine as “the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance.” Telehealth is a broader term that does not necessarily involve clinical services. Telemedicine encompasses applications and services via video conferencing, smartphones, wireless devices, and other types of telecommunications. Electronic data transmitted to a health care practitioner enables remote monitoring of a patient’s condition.
Future of home health diagnostics
As people learn to trust the accuracy of at-home test kits and want to reap the benefits of testing and monitoring independently in the privacy of their own home, it is anticipated that the market will expand even further to meet the demand.