NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Self-Diagnosis: Order Your Own Lab Tests

January 4, 2002

Not only are self-directed consumers buying health insurance and medications online, in increasing numbers they are ordering their own lab tests. If you suspect you're pregnant or developing prostate cancer, in many states you can bypass your doctor and order your own lab work.

A variety of self-ordered tests are available from commercial labs -- for osteoporosis, cholesterol, colon cancer, sperm count, liver function, urinary tract infections, potassium levels, even illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana. While some tests are versions of those available in drugstores, others are identical to those requested by doctors.

  • Order-your-own lab tests are legal in half of all states.
  • Insurance will not cover self-ordered tests, and payment is required up front.
  • Self-ordered tests are private: if you pay for a test, you control the information revealed.
  • Self-ordered testing is often very quick.

Companies that offer these tests include respected hospital networks and some of the largest laboratories in the country. Some also provide limited assessments of the test results and/or referrals to physicians.

Source: Mark D. Uehling, "Diagnosis, Danger: Order Your Own Lab Tests? Think Twice," Medscape Health, December 2001.


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