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Pros and Cons of Online Health Testing

Updated on March 1, 2013

Online health testing services are increasingly offering private health testing for people, but should you consider using such a service? Some companies offer a full array of blood tests to help you find potential problems early. Other services offer scans such as sonograms. Still other offer a full-body CAT or MRI scan. Are private health screenings safe? There are both pros and cons associated with using an online health screen. Here are some things to consider before you hand over your hard-earned cash to pay for these services.


  • Fast Results

One of the worst parts of going to the doctor and having a diagnostic test done is waiting for the results. We have to wait for the initial appointment, wait for the test to be done, then wait - sometimes for weeks - for the results to come in. Many way the waiting and worrying is the worst part. Online health screens often provide results much more quickly. For services offering comprehensive blood tests, you register online, schedule a test at a local laboratory, then you can get your results in as little as 1 day.

  • Confidentiality

One of the good things about online testing services is the confidentiality. The results you receive are just between you and the testing facility. Your doctor or insurance company won't know the results until you tell them. This can be useful if you're trying to get insurance and don't want a health problem to cause you to be denied coverage. However, all abnormal results should be discussed with your physician so follow-up steps can be taken.

  • Early Indication of a Problem

The reason that most companies offer this service is because early discovery of a problem can often lead to better treatment options. Getting an online health screen when you're healthy and without symptoms could possibly indicate an underlying problem before it becomes more serious. Early detection can lead to an early cure.

  • Easy to Do

Most of the time, it is a lot easier to order your own test online, show up at a testing facility, take the test, then get the results via the Internet or mail. You've eliminated the need to make a doctor's appointment, discuss your concerns, and get the correct test ordered. The quick and easy process of ordering your own tests online appeals to some people, especially those who hate going to the doctor.

If cost wasn't a factor, would you use an online health screening service?

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  • Cost

The cost of private health screenings can be prohibitive for some. A simple blood test can cost around $50 while a full-body scan can run into several thousand dollars. Oftentimes, these services are cash- or credit-card-only services, and you cannot use insurance to help cover the cost. While some people may not have a problem with this, low-income people or people on disability income may not have access to such services.

  • Risk of False Positives

One of the problems of any testing - and online testing services in particular - is the result of receiving a false positive or a false abnormal results. A false positive can result anytime, and especially if you don't follow the directions before having the test done, such as fasting requirements. False positives can result in unnecessary worry, time lost from work for follow-up testing, and expensive add-on testing.

  • False Reassurance

Another risk of do-it-yourself health testing is getting a negative result when there truly is a problem. Tests are not 100% effective 100% of the time, and the risk of getting a false negative can impede speedy treatment and provide a false reassurance. It's important to discuss your health concerns with a physician and not rely solely on an online blood test to diagnose disease.

  • Treatment is Riskier than the Disease

One of the problems of online health testing is when you get a positive result for something that may not require treatment. For example, one third of men who are operated on for prostate cancer suffer impotence and a fifth would suffer incontinence. However, studies have shown that, more often than not, prostate cancer does not kill. Studies show that oftentimes, the PSA blood test for prostate cancer does not reduce death rates.

If you're not sure what services online health screening companies offer or have more questions about it, check out some of the companies offering these kinds of services:


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