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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Direct Access Testing for cheap blood tests

Is DAT right for you?
How direct access testing can save you money on routine healthcare costs.

By Yusuf Saleeby, MD

Healthcare cost rising, lower number of available physicians in rural communities, long emergency room wait times, less critical access to care all amount to people neglecting their health from a standpoint of examinations.  What is needed is a viable means of obtaining crucial tests one would typically find at the doctors office without a doctor’s visit.  The typical “annual lab work” constitutes a complete blood cell count, a metabolic panel to check glucose levels, electrolytes and kidney function, often liver function testing is included.  Additionally a urinalysis is a good idea.  For those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is usually ordered and we also see lipid profiles (Cholesterol, Triglycerides, etc.) ordered as well.  Too many Americans are not getting these annual test performed for the simple fact that they cannot afford the tests themselves nor the doctor’s office visit.  Other can’t get them done, as they don’t have easy access to a primary care doctor or provider.  The growing uninsured population is suffering this neglect the most.  Disorders that are routinely screen for and picked up by such testing are being missed, delayed in being discovered and the end result is deeper and costlier expenses to the public/patient.

One stop gap measure to arrest this growing problem is Direct Access Testing (DAT).  This is a process by which a customer is given access to a site where they can order these annual tests themselves.  Often times the public is knowledgeable enough to know what they need and when they need it; if not some sites offer consultations with healthcare providers who offer simple advice.

DAT saves the consumer and the system hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.  For example a basic lab test called a CBC can cost over a hundred dollars when ordered by a physician on an uninsured patient.  And that is one of the least expensive and most basic of annual testing.  Add a few more tests and the total bill (not including a doctor’s office visit) can be as high as $600 or even more depending on your region of the country.  Doctor office visits these days average around $150 for a basic visit for uninsured.  For those with co-pays they can be as low as $10 or as high as $100 especially if a deductible is not met.

A very reasonable assumption to make is that healthcare costs will continue to rise even ahead of inflation.  Is there a ceiling?  Who really knows what is in store.  However, what does not change is that the population at large needs basic healthcare needs.  This can best be met with imaginative and creative use of modern technologies.  DAT offerings include online competitively priced tests that are not to be had elsewhere for less.  Putting these tests within reach physically and monetarily makes all the difference.

Having aligned myself with such a company, I refer my patients almost exclusively to them as even I cannot beat their prices out of my office.

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