Direct-to-consumer labs grow in popularity

In 2015 Arizona passed a law that allowed people to obtain any test offered by a licensed clinical laboratory without a health care provider’s request or authorization. The benefits of the bill largely fell by the wayside when the primary company that supported the bill was found to be lying about their testing process.

However, while all eyes were on the downfall of Theranos, Sonora Quest Laboratories started My Lab ReQuest, their own direct-to-consumer blood testing.  

“Theranos was already in that space. LabCorp had announced, nationally, that they were going to get into the direct-to-consumer space. So, it was an internal business decision on our part to expand direct-to-consumer,” David Dexter, CEO of SQL, said. “I will tell you that I was somewhat of a skeptic that we were truly entering a direct-to-consumer phase in health care, but I gave way completely because once we completely delivered the direct-to-consumer product, within 90 days of rolling it out, the response was much stronger than I had anticipated.”

SQL offers a variety of different tests, varying from hormone replacement therapy monitoring to allergy screenings, and according to Dexter, they keep expanding their menu.

While patients are able to fill out a “laboratory test request form” and send or take it to any of SQL’s 70+ Patient Service Centers, the company has also created an online portal where patients can select tests, schedule appointments, pay, and read their results.

According to Dexter, one of the biggest benefits of direct-to-consumer labs is that chronic patients can order their own tests and keep track of whether or not they’re in control of their disease.

The Physician Association [originally] questioned whether a patient really can interpret their own lab results,” Dexter said. “All those concerns just fell by the wayside. Now, insurance companies will tell me that this is exactly what they want, [for] their members to be engaged in their health care. Physicians say the same thing, that this is complementary with their practice.”

Another benefit for patients is that their tests are affordable, even if they do not have insurance.

“We believe our prices are affordable and reflect the value we provide consumers through our robust network of patient service centers and laboratories throughout the state of Arizona,” Linda Hausman, Director, Sales Operations Excellence at Sonora Quest Laboratories/Laboratory Sciences of Arizona said. “We will continually evaluate pricing as technology and services continue to evolve in the healthcare marketplace.”

The biggest benefit though?

That patients are finally able to be in complete control of their health care.

“The surprising part is that pent up demand for patients really wanting to become more engaged. The very fact that people are taking more ownership of their health care is a huge benefit because everyone wants to have better patient outcomes,” said Dexter.

“This is extremely revolutionary,” said Joan Jordan, who used SQL to help monitor the effects of her dad’s blood-thinning medicine. “Being able to go and take the test, see the numbers and then go and report it to a primary care physician, fit the bill for us.”

According to Dexter, growth in their direct-to-consumer labs has been almost 15 percent per month and in July, SQL partnered with Safeway and Albertsons to offer more screening locations.

“I just think that health care, in general, still is, probably, skeptical that we’re moving into a direct-to-consumer world, but I can tell you that our experience has been that we’re there already and it’s growing rapidly.”

For more information about My Lab ReQuest, click here.

Emily Richardson

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