Medical testing from the comfort of your own home: Survey shows high interest and uneven use by older people

Medical testing from the comfort of your own home: Survey shows high interest and uneven use by older people

image: The percentage of people over 50 who purchased different types of health-related tests to use at home.
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Credit: University of Michigan

Kitchen counters and bathroom sinks across America have turned into miniature medical testing labs over the past year, as millions dabbed their noses and found out within minutes. if they had COVID-19.

Even before the pandemic, many Americans bought tests that had them spit in a tube at home and mailed them, so a company could run the tests and alert them to potential health risks lurking in their DNA.

In fact, a new poll shows that 48% of people aged 50-80 have purchased at least one type of home health test, including 32% who purchased COVID-19 tests, 17% who purchased a test DNA and lower percentages who had purchased other types of tests. But the use of these direct-to-consumer medical tests varies widely by age, race/ethnicity, marital status, income and years of education, according to the new national survey report. on healthy aging.

Despite everything, 82% of seniors say that in the future, they would be somewhat or very interested in having a medical examination at home.

The vast majority (92%) of seniors agree that the results they receive from these tests should be shared with the person’s doctor or other provider. But of those who actually purchased and used a home test for a non-COVID-19 infection like HIV or a urinary tract infection, only 55% shared their result with their primary care provider, the survey found. In contrast, 90% of those who purchased and used a cancer-related home test said they shared the result.

The poll is based at the UM Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, UM’s academic medical center.

“As more companies market these tests directly to consumers and buy ads promoting them, it is important that healthcare providers and policy makers understand what patients might be buying, what they are doing with the results and how that fits into the larger clinical and regulatory picture,” says Jeffrey Kullgren, MD, MPH, MS, survey director.

“As we’ve seen in COVID-19, it’s important to share the results of a home test with a provider so it can be used to guide your care and be counted in official statistics,” adds Kullgren. , primary care physician and health care. researcher at Michigan Medicine and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The poll shows that 53% of older people think home testing is regulated by the government. The reality is complicated.

Many types of tests that people can buy for themselves to take home, or that they take at home on the advice of a healthcare professional, are reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration. United as Medical Devices or supervised by the FDA Laboratory Testing Program. who process the samples sent to them. But not all tests that people can buy directly online or in stores are regulated in this way. For example, tests marketed as “wellness” tests rather than those used for diagnosis or to guide treatment are unregulated; neither are those that pose minimal risk.

The FDA has a searchable database of home tests it has approved based on evidence of their safety and accuracy, and a page on COVID-19 home tests it has authorized under emergency conditions. It also offers more information on direct-to-consumer testing and home use testing involving a healthcare professional. But not all tests are fully reviewed by the FDA; the agency advises consumers to ask vendors or healthcare providers about the status of a test.

“Home testing can be a convenient way for older adults to check if they have an illness, such as COVID-19,” says Indira Venkat, senior vice president, AARP Research. “But consumers should make sure they know if the test they’re having is FDA-approved and how their health or genetic information may be shared.”

Learn more about the survey results:

Note: Respondents were asked based on tests they had purchased themselves online or in a store, not those given to them by a healthcare provider to collect a sample at home or those which had been given to them freely.

  • 6% of respondents had purchased a home test for cancer, such as colon cancer or prostate cancer
  • 4% had purchased a home test for an infection other than COVID-19, such as a urinary tract infection or HIV
  • 10% had purchased another type of home test, such as those for allergies, food sensitivities or hormones, including those related to menopause or testosterone levels
  • Black seniors were much less likely to have purchased a home medical test than white or Hispanic seniors; this was true for COVID-19 tests (20% vs. 33%) and non-COVID-19 tests (16% vs. 30%)
  • The purchase of COVID-19 tests at home was highest among people aged 50 to 64 compared to those aged 65 to 80. The purchase of other types of tests did not differ by age group.
  • Older adults were more likely to have purchased home tests if they had more years of education, higher household income, or were married.
  • Advertising played a role in the decision of many seniors to purchase a home test, including 44% of those who took a DNA test and 11% of those who took a cancer screening test.
  • 74% of seniors find at-home testing more convenient than taking it from their healthcare provider
  • 59% agree that home testing can be trusted to provide reliable results
  • Of the 82% who expressed an interest in taking home tests in the future, the specific percentages were 70% for COVID-19 tests, 56% for cancer-related tests and 43% for other types of diseases. ‘infection. Interest was much higher among those who had previously used home tests and among women than among men.

The survey report is based on the results of a nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the IHPI, and administered online and by telephone in July 2022 to 2,163 adults aged 50 to 80 years old. The sample was then weighted to reflect the US population. Read past National Healthy Aging Survey reports and survey methodology.


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of press releases posted on EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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