Quest Diagnostics will expand a program that allows consumers to order certain lab tests without a doctor's order. It's a response to the growing trend of consumers taking charge of their healthcare.
The Madison, N.J.-based clinical lab giant announced Monday that it is piloting its QuestDirect patient-initiated testing service in Colorado and Missouri, after success in Arizona and Oklahoma. Though Quest says it has already been shifting its business to better serve the new world of consumer-focused healthcare, the announcement comes not long after the downfall of Theranos, which had hoped to offer direct-to-consumer testing with just a few drops of blood, before federal authorities essentially shut it down.
Patients will be able to order about 70 tests without a doctor's order, including HIV and sexually transmitted disease tests, as well as panels related to heart health, hepatitis or diabetes. Results can be viewed through a Quest patient portal.
Quest chose Colorado and Missouri for the pilot because they are among 17 states across the country that allow consumers to order diagnostics tests without any physician oversight or regulation, according to the company. Another 14 allow consumer ordering with some restrictions.
As consumers have taken on a larger share of their healthcare costs, they've demanded cost transparency and invested more time in researching their options. Diagnostics hasn't been immune to this shift, said Cathy Doherty, senior vice president and group executive of clinical franchise solutions at Quest.
“Really it's the consumer that is demanding this kind of service,” Doherty said. “Market trends of healthcare continue to stress a need to be consumer-focused. We think they're influencing and continue to influence a larger portion of laboratory spend.”
Quest has over 2,200 patient service centers across the country. Patients in Arizona and Oklahoma have had access to the direct-testing program for just over a year, through existing joint ventures with Phoenix-based Banner Health and Oklahoma City-based Integris Health, respectively.
Even traditional providers such as Banner and Integris are acknowledging the need for a patient-initiated model, Doherty noted.
“I think they're recognizing that there's a need in the marketplace, even though it's not necessarily all consumers,” Doherty said. “And there's value in a consumer really understanding their health.”
Theranos offered patient-initiated testing in Arizona, as allowed by law. The startup had its own brick-and-mortar testing center in the San Francisco Bay Area, and had pilot locations in Arizona, California and Pennsylvania with drugstore chain Walgreens, grocery giant Safeway and Capital Blue Cross, a central Pennsylvania insurer. Those companies have since cut ties with the troubled startup, which is facing legal and regulatory troubles over the reliability of its testing. Safeway has since signed on with Sonora Quest Laboratories, the Banner Health-Quest venture.
There are 12 Safeway testing locations in five states, and the companies plan to expand to 200 more stores by the end of 2017, according to Doherty.