What to Expect: The Future of Home Testing
Over the past few decades, health care has become more decentralized. Mark Hughes, a vice president and spokesman for Enterprise Analysis Corporation in Stamford, CT, says this shift means that the home testing market—which has grown tremendously in worldwide sales—will continue to grow. In fact, the increase in use of at-home health and well-being tests was among the top 10 trends in 2008, according to Mintel Global New Products Database.
"Technology will make testing formats easier to perform and more accurate," Hughes says. "The markets for diagnosis and monitoring will expand; we could also see an increase in tests for screening chronic diseases."
And first-generation tests, like prothrombin time (used to monitor blood thinners) will lead to improved second- and third-generation devices.
"One of the biggest benefits [to home medical devices that monitor disease conditions] is connectivity," Nichols says. "They're not completely wireless yet, but most can store data and show individual health trends."
In the future, your doctor may be able to plug these devices into a computer and analyze your results by "smart algorithm." Or you may be able to use devices that sync with your own computer, prompting it to issue regular reminders to take a reading. Eventually, home tests may be able to send the results directly to your doctor in the same manner as a cell phone or text message.
The issue then becomes consumer education. "Think about how often you have a prescription for medicine that you have to take four times a day," Nichols says, "and how many times you forget to take it."
"But for patients who are taught well by their clinician," he adds, "that [home test] can be a godsend."