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With Home Testing, Consumers Take Charge of Their Health

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What to Expect: The Future of Home Testing

Over the past few decades, healthcare 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, sales of home health screening tests are expected to grow by more than 31% between 2012 and 2017, reaching $24.2 billion worldwide, according to BCC Research.

"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 anticoagulants) 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 healthcare practitioner may be able to plug these devices into a computer and analyze your results. Or you may be able to use devices that sync with your own computer or smartphone, prompting them to issue regular reminders to take a reading. Researchers have already developed applications and devices that work with smartphones to take blood pressure or electrocardiogram readings. With FDA approval, smartphones may be used for many more tests in the near future. Researchers have developed phone applications and device attachments that analyze blood, saliva or urine samples for cholesterol, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other conditions. Eventually, home tests may be able to send the results directly to your healthcare provider in the same manner as a 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."

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