Taking a diagnostic test at home is incredibly inconvenient, which is why direct-to-consumer medical test kits have been popular for decades. You can purchase a testing kit online and at any pharmacy. Some types of tests are even available in supermarkets.
Diagnostic tests for home use are widely accessible, affordable, discreet, and easy to use. To some extent, it may seem too good to be true. How reliable are at-home tests compared to traditional lab testing? Should you trust the results? Are these tests always accurate?
In this article, you will discover a few essential things about at-home medical tests that every person should know before buying one.
How Do At-home Tests Work?
You can use a home test to detect pregnancy, measure glucose or cholesterol levels, check for signs of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 or hepatitis, or learn more about your genetic profile. All in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is collect a sample of a body fluid, such as saliva, urine, or blood. Then you apply the sample to the kit according to the instructions and wait a few minutes for the results.
Each type of test targets a specific health condition, and testing accuracy depends on the specificity and sensitivity of the test. Some types of medical tests may give false-positive results, while others may give false-negative results. There are many reasons why this happens frequently. In a laboratory, conditions are heavily controlled, and every task is performed by a professional. At home, a small, unnoticeable mistake can drastically reduce testing accuracy.
Understanding Sensitivity and Specificity
Whenever you take a test at home, you do it with the hope of getting reliable results that can help you make the appropriate decisions for your health and well-being. The test should answer the question: do you have the target condition or not? Unfortunately, things are not as simple as we would like. For example, if you take a COVID-19 test and get positive results, you can be certain that you are infected with the virus. However, even if you get negative results, you may still be infected with the virus. Why does this happen? COVID-19 tests may give false-negative results if the person is in the earliest or latest stages of infection, which means there’s no viral load in the collected sample. This fact has caused many people to distrust the efficacy of COVID-19 tests. However, the scientific explanation is simple: COVID-19 tests are specific but not very sensitive.
If you’re taking a medical test at home, consider learning more about its sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity is the ability of a test to determine if you have the target condition, and specificity is the ability of a test to determine if you do not have the target condition. Knowing if a test is highly specific or sensitive can help you interpret the results effectively.
Can Kit Quality Affect Testing Accuracy?
The quality of the kit itself matters when it comes to testing accuracy. Reputable companies use technologically-advanced materials and medical devices that guarantee high testing accuracy. When buying a home test, choose products with FDA approval, made by leading companies in medical technology.
Rapid diagnostic testing is an area of research undergoing fast expansion. Superior devices and products are always in the making. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking over the world, there has been a growing need for reliable saliva test kits that detect viral infections. With a superior saliva self-collection device, companies can design noninvasive testing kits that are easy to use and provide high testing accuracy.
Can You Get Inaccurate Results from A High-Quality Test?
As paradoxical as it may seem, you may use a high-quality test known to provide high testing accuracy yet not get valuable results. Misreading the instructions or not following the instructions correctly can affect testing accuracy. Incorrect handling of the sample can also alter the final results, making the test unreliable.
Your test results may be accurate yet not provide valuable information for health monitoring. For example, a blood glucose test will always provide accurate results. However, if you’re taking medications that elevate your blood pressure and glucose level, the results only indicate your glucose level at the moment of testing. This information is not relevant because your glucose level is affected by the medications you’re taking. Thus, you cannot use these results to make informed health care decisions.
The Best Approach?
Whether you don’t have the time to visit your doctor or prefer a more discreet solution, at-home medical tests can be a cheap and convenient alternative. Home testing kits provide a lot of value as a preliminary or emergency medical screening. Due to their fast turnaround time, they can be highly effective solutions in specific situations.
If you are interested in your genetic profile or have another medical curiosity, a home test is an ideal option. It’s cheap, convenient to use, and confidential. You don’t have to pay premium prices for traditional medical assistance. However, if you have a serious health condition, or you suspect you may have one, consider at-home tests only a preliminary step before seeking assistance from a medical facility. The result of a single test is often not enough for diagnosis. A medical professional will be able to eliminate all your doubts and concerns with a lab test.
Taking a medical test at home is quick, easy, and convenient, but should you trust the results? At-home medical tests developed by reputable brands from the medical technology industry provide high testing accuracy. Learn more about the specific characteristics of the test you’re taking, and follow the instructions correctly. Use the test results as a starting point for further medical investigations. Importantly, ask your health care provider to recommend you high-quality kits for home testing.
Being able to detect and monitor certain conditions and diseases in the privacy of your home is empowering. Consider using at-home testing kits regularly to monitor your health. These affordable medical tests are an immense help in the early detection of severe health diseases, some of which do not produce symptoms in their initial stages.