Ordering Lab Tests Online To Save Money

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) — With rising costs for health care and higher deductibles, many patients are looking for ways to save money. A growing trend is to order your own lab tests online.

After retiring from the police force, Peter Mango had to get his own insurance policy for his family. He also needed blood tests to keep tabs on his cholesterol levels.

“You don’t realize the cost involved until you start paying out of pocket for that,” he said. “We now have a high deductible insurance plan, $5,000, and lab tests can add up pretty fast.”

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports.

Mango went on line and ordered the tests himself from Direct Labs which had a physician write the order. He was then sent to a lab to get his blood drawn.

“The actual pricing of that when I signed up was discounted to $29.95, and I was shocked,” said Mango.

There are a growing number of sites which will test for things like a Vitamin D deficiency, to a whole range of sexually transmitted diseases. They all promise to protect your privacy and save you money.

Mango thinks he’s saved more that $1,000, so far. “With the cost of health insurance and medical tests, you have to look right now to cut anything that we can,” he added.

Some doctors find it helpful when patients initiate their own tests, but others worry about how that information will be used. They are also concerned it could be taken out of context.

“It’s not just a number you get back,” said Dr. Albert Keshgegian, a director at a traditional lab. He worries how patients will react to different results.

“They could decide that there’s nothing wrong when in fact there may be something wrong, or they could react very negatively to some bad news when it’s something that could be handled and treated if they talked to their own physician about it,” said Keshgegian.

Direct Labs founder John Bell made the case patients end up more aware of potential health problems. “About 20 percent of the people we do test have a problem,” he said, “But these people are people that would have not gone to the doctor because they weren’t sick, or didn’t know they had a problem.”

That’s what happened with Mango. He eventually took his results to his doctor who put him on medication. He sees this as the perfect solution to a tough economy and rising health care costs.

“I think that balance between taking care of your health, and weighing the impact on family finances is huge in this economy and anything you can do to reduce those expenses and still get a quality product, I think we need to look at,” said Mango.

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