At-home med tests: Do-it-yourself tests are becoming trendy again

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At-home med tests: Do-it-yourself tests are becoming trendy again

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At-home med tests: Do-it-yourself tests are becoming trendy again

Subheading text
At-home test kits are experiencing a renaissance as they continue to prove to be practical tools in disease management.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • February 9, 2023

    Post text

    At-home testing kits received a renewed interest and investment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when most healthcare services were devoted to testing and managing the virus. However, many companies are leveraging the privacy and convenience that at-home med tests provide and are looking for better ways to develop more accurate and easier do-it-yourself diagnostics.

    At-home med tests context

    Home use tests, or at-home medical tests, are kits purchased online or in pharmacies and supermarkets, allowing private testing for specific diseases and conditions. Common test kits include blood sugar (glucose), pregnancy, and infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)). Taking body fluid samples, such as blood, urine, or saliva, and applying them to the kit is the most common method for at-home med tests. Many kits are available over-the-counter, but it’s still recommended to consult physicians for suggestions on which ones to use. 

    In 2021, Canada’s national health department, Health Canada, authorized the first COVID-19 at-home test kit from medical technology firm Lucira Health. The test delivers polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-quality molecular accuracy. The kit costs about USD $60 and can take 11 minutes to process positive results and 30 minutes for negative results. In comparison, lab tests conducted at centralized facilities took two to 14 days to provide comparable accurate results. Lucira’s results were compared with the Hologic Panther Fusion, one of the most sensitive molecular tests due to its low Limit of Detection (LOD). It was discovered that Lucira's accuracy was 98 percent, correctly detecting 385 out of 394 positive and negative samples.

    Disruptive impact

    At-home med tests are often used to find or screen for diseases like high cholesterol or common infections. Test kits can also monitor chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes, which can help individuals improve their lifestyles to manage these diseases. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stresses that these home kits are not meant to replace doctors and that only those issued by the agency should be purchased to ensure their accuracy and safety. 

    Meanwhile, during the height of the pandemic, many companies focused on researching at-home diagnostics tests to help out overwhelmed healthcare providers. For example, mobile health company Sprinter Health established an online “delivery” system to send nurses into homes for vital checks and testing. Other firms are partnering with healthcare providers to enable at-home tests for blood collection. An example is medical technology firm BD collaborating with healthcare startup Babson Diagnostics to enable simple blood collection at home. 

    The companies have been working since 2019 on a device that can collect small volumes of blood from the fingertip’s capillaries. The device is easy to use, does not require specialized training, and focuses on supporting primary care in retail environments. However, the companies are now considering bringing that same blood collection technology to at-home diagnostic tests but with less invasive procedures. Not long after beginning clinical testing of its devices, Babson raised USD $31 million in venture capital funding in June 2021. Startups will continue to explore other possibilities in do-it-yourself test kits as more people prefer to perform most diagnostics at home. There will also be more partnerships among tech firms and hospitals to enable remote testing and treatments.

    Implications of at-home med tests

    Wider implications of at-home med tests may include: 

    • More collaborations among medical technology companies to develop different diagnostics testing kits, particularly for early detection and genetic illnesses.
    • Increased funding in mobile clinics and diagnostics technologies, including using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze samples.
    • More competition in the COVID-19 rapid testing market, as people would still need to show test results for travel and work. Similar competition may arise for kits that can test for future high profile diseases.
    • National health departments partnering with startups to create better diagnostics tools to reduce the workload for hospitals and clinics.
    • Some test kits that are not scientifically proven and might be just following the trend without any official certifications.

    Questions to comment on

    • If you have used at-home med tests, what do you like most about them?
    • What other potential home test kits can improve diagnostics and treatment?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight:

    Medline Plus At-Home Medical Tests