Direct Access Testing
What if you think you should receive a lab test, but your doctor hasn’t ordered it or doesn’t think you need it? In many states, lab tests can only be performed with a doctor’s order. However, increasingly, individual states are allowing patients to directly order their own labs (also called ‘direct access testing’). While this may seem an appealing option, especially if you and your doctor don’t agree on which tests should be performed, there are several things to keep in mind before ordering your own labs.
- Not all tests can be self-ordered: The labs available for direct access testing vary by state; it’s possible that the tests most relevant for your healthcare management needs are not available by direct access testing.
- Insurance won’t pay: You will most likely have to pay out of pocket for all direct access testing labs. Make sure you understand the costs upfront.
- False positives and negatives: Depending on the test ordered, your chances of receiving a false positive or false negative range from extremely low to very high. This means that a test could incorrectly indicate an abnormal, or positive, result when in fact everything is normal. Inversely, a false negative occurs when a lab test comes back normal, or negative, when in fact, it should have been abnormal, or positive. These readings could lead to unnecessary stress and worry or an inaccurate assumption that everything is fine. A doctor or licensed healthcare practitioner has the training to interpret test results and maintains awareness of tests more likely to result in false positives/negatives. He or she will re-order tests when appropriate, to ensure accurate results.
- Support and linkage to care: Receiving an abnormal or positive test result is scary, and you are likely to have many follow-up questions. Receiving results through trusted medical providers helps to ensure proper support and linkage to care after a difficult diagnosis.
If you’re interested in ordering your own tests, it’s best to speak with a trusted healthcare provider first. Read more on self-advocacy tips that you can use when requesting tests from your doctor.
The University of Cincinnati has created a helpful infographic providing an overview of direct access testing. View it HERE.