NEW YORK (360Dx) – Lab giants Quest Diagnostics and Laboratory Corporation of America both launched consumer-initiated testing services this month, empowering consumers to select laboratory testing kits to monitor their health.
The new testing services — Pixel by LabCorp, introduced on Nov. 1, and QuestDirect, launched on Nov. 7 — reflect changing trends in how consumers access healthcare, according to company executives.
"Consumers are taking control over managing their health a lot more than they ever did, and they are partially doing this because many are involved in high-deductible health plans," said Catherine Doherty, Quest's Senior vice president and group executive of clinical franchise solutions and marketing, who leads Quest's consumer initiative. "They are paying for their health out of their pockets, and as a result we think there is an opportunity to go direct to consumer in this vein," Doherty said in an interview.
Both Pixel by LabCorp and QuestDirect allow consumers to browse from a menu of tests available by order on the services' respective websites. Both services also have physicians oversee and order the testing if necessary, according to the companies. If a consumer's lab results are outside the normal reference range, the consumer will be contacted and informed about the context of their test results or advised to seek medical treatment. For both services, the consumer-initiated testing is paid for out of pocket with test kit prices clearly listed online.
The services differ in how and where the testing is performed. Through QuestDirect, after consumers select testing, they are prompted to make an appointment at a patient service center where the testing will be performed, according to Doherty.
Consumers using the Pixel by LabCorp service have a sample test kit sent to their home. Most Pixel by LabCorp tests require just a few drops of blood collected from consumer's fingertips, according to the company. The testing uses microsampling techniques that have been in use for 50 years, beginning with the infant heel stick testing, according to a Don Von Hagen, a company spokesperson. Consumers return the samples in a postage-paid, preaddressed kit box.
The home-based testing model is intended to enable consumers to perform testing "when and where they choose," LabCorp Chairman and CEO David King said in a statement when the service was announced.
The Pixel by LabCorp site currently lists test kits available for wellness screening, heart health, diabetes, and colorectal cancer screening.
The test "are not intended to replace the traditional diagnostic testing performed in our patient services centers, and consumers should not make decisions about their healthcare or disease treatment, such as starting or stopping medication, without first consulting with their healthcare provider," Von Hagen said. "We believe that the wellness information provided through the Pixel service can complement these traditional healthcare services."
LabCorp sees potential future applications for home-based, self-collection testing, such as reaching patients in the home in connection with clinical research, from initial eligibility screening to remote patient monitoring, according to Von Hagen.
Quest currently has 35 test packages available for order through QuestDirect in the areas of general health, men's and women's health, digestive health, heart health, infectious disease, and sexually transmitted disease testing. "Based on our research, these were the kinds of things that consumers were looking for," Doherty said.
Quest conducted pilot tests for QuestDirect in the fourth quarter of 2017 in Colorado and Missouri, she said, and Quest joint venture Sonora Quest also launched the QuestDirect offering in Arizona at that time. Quest was able to do this due to Arizona's HB 2645 law, which allows patients to get blood tests sold by a licensed lab without a doctor's order.
The opportunity to offer testing directly to consumers in Arizona came about largely due to the efforts of Theranos, the infamous lab testing startup that sought to upend the traditional clinical lab testing market through supposed advancements in its technology and a plan to reach consumers directly. The firm ultimately ended up closing shop amid investigations and indictments for certain of its executives including Founder Elizabeth Holmes.
However, the Arizona law has remained in place and has presented an opportunity for those traditional lab testing firms that Theranos had tried to conquer.
The QuestDirect testing service is available to anyone age 18 and over, but the company sees the target audience as consumers in their 20s to 40s, who are looking for convenience and for more control over their health.
"Oftentimes, consumers are looking to understand their basic health, and what we found, both in the pilots and with Sonora Quest, is sometimes consumers are making decisions around exercise and diet in terms of understanding their cholesterol or their lipids," Doherty said. "As they make these behavioral changes, they want to understand whether or not they are impacting their [lab results]"
In addition, sexually transmitted disease testing was added to the service offering because consumers are often looking to order sexually transmitted disease testing in a more private way, Doherty noted.
"We are targeting folks who are interested in privacy and folks who are interested in managing their own health," she said.
For both lab companies, the consumer-initiated testing services are part of a larger consumer-focused emphasis.
LabCorp announced earlier this year that it plans to expand the number of its patient service centers in Walgreens stores to 600, inclusive of the 17 that are already open, over the next four years. LabCorp has also focused on improving the customer experience in recent years through adding features to its LabCorp|Patient online portal, including LabCorp|PreCheck, which enables online appointment scheduling. In addition, the company has rolled out a LabCorp|Express tablet-based system at patient service centers, which enables patients to scan their driver's licenses or QR codes they received from online appointment scheduling to expedite check-in.
For its part, Quest has partnered with both Safeway and Walmart to install patient service centers in retail locations and expects to have more than 200 patient service centers in retail stores by the end of the year. It also offers a MyQuest portal to enable customers to schedule testing and access results from home, as well as an e-registration process for faster check-in at patient service centers, Doherty noted.
The company has also emphasized real-time adjudication to provide patients with price transparency about the out-of-pocket costs of lab testing ordered by their doctors, she noted.
Quest currently offers self-ordered testing based on home-based blood draws through its Blueprint Fit testing service geared toward athletes.
"As we think about becoming the lab provider of choice for consumers, we are doing this by focusing on convenience, empowerment, personalization, and delivering a superior customer experience," Doherty said. "Consumers are expecting to have an experience like they have with other retailers, like the Amazons and the Apples and the Zappos. We are attempting to create that experience and develop a relationship with the consumer that is personalized and relevant."