Healthcare is changing and fast, but is home blood testing really the way forward?
A decade ago we had very little access to information about our own health. Now, due to the explosion of wearables and digital health apps we can track everything. Our sleep patterns, heart rate, steps, and even how often we stand-up. But that information is just the tip of the iceberg. Recently, we’ve seen the rise of the home blood testing market.
This aims to give us insight into our internal health, through laboratory testing accompanied by ‘fitbit’ style results dashboards.
Back in 1978 the first home pregnancy test kit was launched in the UK, a laborious two-hour, nine-step test. We’ve come a long way since.
Now, using a finger-prick testing kit you can collect a small sample of blood at home, post direct to a lab and get the results in just 24 hours. These can include up to 30 different biomarkers, including hormones and key vitamins. With such convenience and quick access to your own personalised health data, it’seasy to see why DIY health test kits are becoming more and more popular.
Who uses home testing kits?
Most people using these kits want a better understanding of their health. In turn, this allows them to make informed decisions, putting them in control of their health. Some also use home testing to answer an array of questions about a genetic condition or a health niggle.
For example, the home test kits can help to identify if a female is perimenopausal, where your body will begin transitioning through the menopause, or track how the change in hormone levels are affecting your overall wellbeing.
Dr Nicky Keay, an expert in endocrinology (hormones), says: “Empowering yourself with information about your body is key. This especially applies to the menopause. In the first instance knowing that you are not feeling 100% is due to your changing hormones, gives you understanding and opportunity to consider your options. These options can range from changes in lifestyle such as increasing exercise to protect bone health, paying extra attention to nutrition and considering the pros and cons of HRT.”
What are the benefits?
A major benefit of home test kits is precisely that. You can do them from the comfort of your own home. No need to wait for appointments with an already overstretched health service. These tests give you greater control and understanding of your own health. You can track what’s really going on inside your body and take positive steps to manage your own health and wellbeing.
The menopause health check, for example, allows you to track wider aspects of your journey through menopause such as bone health, a factor which is largely affected by the decrease in oestrogen hormone levels, increasing the risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis.
How do you choose the right home test kit?
One of the key players in the UK home test kit market is Forth. Sarah Bolt, founder and CEO started the company three years ago. Motivated by her own experiences, she wanted to know more about her health.
She says: “In 2013 I bought my first Fitbit when it was launched in the UK. I loved the data it gave me but I wanted to find out more about what was happening inside my body.
“I’d suffered on and off with anaemia but was never given access to my test results from my GP. I wanted to make the necessary changes to improve rather than just popping some pills.”
What sets hormone test kits such as those offered by Forth apart from some you can buy over the counter is they are analysed by an accredited laboratory.
Although they are a low-cost option, over-the-counter pharmacy tests are not scientifically analysed. Accredited laboratories demonstrate the lab is competent and has high standards of service. A medical professional analyses Forth’s results before they are given to you.
There is no doubt that healthcare and our relationship with our own health is dramatically changing. The advent of home testing has great benefits for our health.
We can gain a greater understanding of the inner workings of our bodies, in a way which we haven’t been able to before without the aid of our GP.
Forth offers a range of home blood test kits from single biomarkers to comprehensive health screens, analysing over 50 key biomarkers. The tests are simple to use and samples are analysed at an accredited UK laboratory, then checked by a GP. Among the 25 tests offered, they have developed health checks specifically for women who are or think they may be transitioning through the menopause.