If you’ve ever had to have lab work done, you know it can be a pain. Especially if you are the one wanting the work done. This can be even more difficult (and costly) if you have no insurance. Here is where do-it-yourself lab services come in.
First, I would like to say that unless you know exactly what tests need to be done, ordering them yourself can be a waste of time and money. Keep in mind that blood tests are not always conclusive and that many illnesses can present with many symptoms. Please do not self-diagnose based solely on test results; there are many other factors involved. I also highly suggest using a reputable lab.
Why I Chose DIY Lab Testing
I do not have health insurance, nor do I have a primary care physician. Not because I don’t want them, but because I can’t afford them. The only doctor I see is my pain management doctor once a month and I am self-pay for those appointments. I go through them if ever I need imaging or testing done that is related to my injury, but for any other tests I am sort of on my own.
I have suffered from joint pain and fatigue since I was a teenager. I played volleyball in middle and high school and suffered from nearly constant bilateral knee pain. To this day it is very difficult for me to squat or bend down without pain. This, along with the arthritis in my shoulder, elbow, hand and neck, and my experience in the medical field got me to thinking it was time that I get some blood work done to check for rheumatoid arthritis or some other autoimmune disorder. Because I’ve ordered these tests for patients all the time, I knew what tests needed to be done but I didn’t have a doctor to order them. I probably could have requested it through my pain management doctor but I’m impatient.
That impatience led me to do a Google search for ordering your own blood tests. I was surprised to find multiple websites that offered such services. I will admit, I was fairly skeptical about this whole thing at first. Being in the medical field, it almost felt unnatural to order my own testing as a patient.
Ordering The Tests
The first step was to find the tests I needed and check the prices. After checking multiple sites, I discovered that Walk-In Lab was the most reasonable for what I needed. So, I went to their website and added the required tests to my cart. The entire process was pretty easy and the price wasn’t all that bad considering the fact that it was self-pay.
Here is what I ordered and how much each test cost:
- ANA (Antinuclear antibodies) Qualitative | $44.00
- Sedimentation Rate | $23.00
- C-Reactive Protein | $48.00
After a 10% discount for ordering three or more tests, my total came out to $103.50. I was able to pay for the tests through PayPal and was given an order to print out and take to the lab of my choice. I was then offered the option to schedule an appointment with said lab, so I made one with a LabCorp a few miles from my house for the following week.
Note: I advise you always make an appointment for testing at a lab, even if your doctor has ordered the test. Because they offer walk-in appointments, they generally are first come first serve. If you make an appointment, you will avoid the wait. When I went to LabCorp the waiting room was full of people who had obviously been there for a long time. I discovered when I signed in that no one else had made an appointment, and I was only seated for maybe ten minutes before being called back. In all, I was at the lab for a total of maybe thirty minutes; I have no idea how long those people had to wait.
Turn Around Time
I had the blood work done on a Monday and by Wednesday morning I received an email telling me that my results were ready. I logged into my account and was able to see my report immediately. Because my results were positive, they also recommended that I follow up with a physician to go over them. They even offered to fax it to my doctor’s office for free.
Now, I was able to interpret my results because I know what to look for. Even then, though, I was unable to come up with a concrete diagnosis. Although my results were positive for an autoimmune disease, I still do not know which disease it is. I can only find that out through further testing and by seeing a specialist.
As is the case with anything, there are pros and cons to using a do-it-yourself lab service.
- No need to wait for a doctor
- Get your results within days instead of having to wait to see them at your next appointment
- Ability to have almost any test done
- Take your health into your own hands
- Can be a waste of time and money if you don’t know what you’re doing/looking for
- Can cause more questions than answers if you don’t know how to interpret the results or if the results are inconclusive
- Can lead to self-diagnosing incorrectly, which can cause more problems down the line
- The possibility of false positives, leading to more unnecessary and invasive testing
- Health insurance may not pay for testing, meaning you will have to pay out-of-pocket, whereas if you went through a physician it would be covered
So, in the end I would recommend using a do-it-yourself lab service if you know what you are looking for and are not trying to diagnose yourself with a serious illness. Lab work will not give you an entire picture and you will need a professional to interpret the results depending on the test(s) you have done.
I will use Walk-In Lab again to check my hormone levels and thyroid, but I do so understanding that I may not get a full answer from the results. If you are just trying to get a baseline or you intend to review your results with a physician, this might be the best way to do it.