At Academic Medical Associates, our providers frequently order laboratory tests to confirm a suspected diagnosis, plan a course of treatment, or monitor patients for possible side effects of medications. Tests are chosen based on standard diagnosis and treatment protocols that have been scientifically shown to be necessary and appropriate for the individual patient’s situation. In most cases, when a test is needed as part of a standard treatment plan, Medicare and private insurance companies cover the costs of testing.
However, we frequently see patients who wish to have specific tests done for personal reasons that may not fit standard guidelines of what is considered necessary and appropriate. In such cases, insurance contracts and Medicare regulations prohibit your provider from ordering the tests. In the past, this could lead to frustration when a patient strongly desires a test but has no way to obtain it.
Now for the good news. Recently, a number of commercial laboratory companies have started to offer patient-directed testing, that is, tests that a patient chooses for themselves without having an order from a healthcare provider. Individual patients can now go on-line, order their own tests, and visit their local lab office to have the test done.
Commonly requested tests that may now be obtained without a doctor’s order include:
- Blood typing (A, B, O)
- Hormone levels (such as testosterone)
- Vitamin levels (such as vitamin D)
- Sexually transmitted disease testing
- Kidney, liver, and thyroid function testing
- Allergy testing (such as food allergies)
The primary drawback to patient-directed testing is that Medicare and commercial insurance plans do not cover tests that are not done as part of a standard treatment plan under a doctor’s order. In addition, be aware that testing itself has risks, in that tests can be inaccurate or misleading, and the results may cause you to make incorrect decisions about your healthcare and lead to further problems.
Also, it is important to understand that the providers at Academic Medical are neither encouraging nor discouraging you to pursue patient-directed testing. We are providing this information solely for your convenience.
For more information on patient-directed testing, visit the sites below: