At-home tests put health in your own hands

At-home diagnostic tools allow people to do their own testing, monitoring, and preventive care, all from the comfort of home.

By Jared Lindzon — April 13, 2021

One year after Joey Leingang was hospitalized with a COVID-like illness (he was never officially diagnosed), he continues to struggle with complications, including elevated blood pressure. After complaining of ongoing symptoms, his doctor recommended he start tracking it at home with a heart monitoring device he bought at his local Walgreens in Brooklyn.

“I basically started monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure every morning, and shared the results with my doctors,” says Leingang, vice president of engineering at the healthcare company Eden Health. “They confirmed that I had early-stage hypertension, and I need to monitor that to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.”

MedWand allows healthcare professionals to gather important vitals from patients that typically requires an in-person visit.

Lily Fassnacht

MedWand allows healthcare professionals to gather important vitals from patients that typically requires an in-person visit.

Leingang says that there are a range of benefits to having his own monitoring device at home. Not only is it safer to avoid healthcare facilities during the pandemic, but it’s also much more convenient than traveling to and from a doctor’s office on a regular basis. Furthermore, having the ability to gather that information independently helps him feel more involved in his own care, and motivates him to maintain healthier habits.

“I can see the trend over time and how diet and exercise impact the fluctuation,” he says. “Having the data myself means I can feel a little more confident in my ability to change outcomes.”

Consumers are already comfortable with collecting data about themselves, with devices such as smartwatches, heart-rate monitors, and step counters in the mainstream. With advances in at-home health technology over the past few years, patients can now screen and test for a range of ailments, monitor their symptoms, and even improve their own health and well-being from the comfort of their own home. 

Patients and physicians alike have grown more interested in home health tools during the pandemic, and the global home diagnostics market is expected to grow more than 30%, to $6.53 billion by 2025. At the same time concerns over consumer privacy are being raised, with lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups pushing for standards in how health data is stored, secured, and shared by consumer health tools. 

“The advantage of home testing and diagnostics is the promise of immediate, accurate, and actionable results for you and your family,” says Dr. Trevor Hawkins, global head of HP 200A, a new initiative focused on healthcare applications at HP. “This shift will not go away post COVID, as society gets used to a faster and more personal approach to healthcare.” HP is the world leader in microfluidics – the ability to manipulate fluids at a microscopic level, smaller even than a human cell. This technology holds great promise for personalized health and wellness innovation.

Testing and screening without a trip to the doctor

As the pandemic made in-person doctor visits a potential health risk, many patients opted for at-home telehealth appointments instead. Physicians now believe remote healthcare is not only here to stay, but will continue to evolve and improve over time. 

“We’re now going from just trying to provide that audio/video telehealth connection to actually providing diagnostics at home,” says Brian D’Anza, the medical director for digital health and telehealth for Ohio’s University Hospitals Health System.

Moving routine tests and diagnostics into the home could also dramatically reduce healthcare costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), preventative measures, like screening and detection, could dramatically reduce chronic diseases, which were responsible for $1 trillion in direct healthcare costs in 2016. 

Young woman holding up a Fluo Labs nasal device to her nose at home.

Fluo Labs, LLC

The Fluo device uses light therapy to reduce inflammation to relieve sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose.

For example, there are now a variety of testing solutions that enable patients to test for a range of conditions from home — including sleep apnea, allergies, cholesterol, fertility, and even COVID-19. One of the areas D’Anza finds particularly promising is early self-screening for colon cancer.

“It’s better to prevent a chronic condition from happening than having to manage a chronic condition,” says D’Anza. “That’s where I think this area has a lot of opportunity to improve health.”

Cologuard, the first FDA-approved at-home colon cancer screening kit, provides a simple solution for determining whether a patient requires further examination in the form of a colonoscopy. Those who may be at risk of colon cancer can receive the kit from their doctor, provide a stool sample, and send it into a lab where it can be examined for signs of colon cancer, which is among the most common causes of cancer deaths.

“Colon cancer is the most preventable cancer, but it is the least prevented cancer,” explains Jeff Elliott, chief financial officer of Exact Sciences, the maker of Cologuard. “Only about 50 to 60% of people get screened routinely as they should.”

According to Elliot, more than 5 million people have completed a Cologuard screening from home, which significantly improves the likelihood of early detection while reducing overall healthcare costs.

“I think the next 20 years will be the heyday for diagnostics in this country,” he says. “This is just the beginning for at-home testing.”

DIY monitoring and data collection

As remote doctor visits have become more prevalent, there are a slew of new at-home health tracking technologies designed to augment virtual appointments and provide vital data to physicians.

Products like FreeStyle Libre and GlucoTrack, for example, offer non-invasive at-home glucose monitoring solutions for diabetes patients — no needle required. The Miiskin app helps patients track changes in skincare conditions like moles over time, and products like TytoCare and MedWand allow physicians to remotely conduct common patient examinations that previously required an in-person visit.

MedWand is a compact device that patients can connect to their computer, tablet, or mobile device via Bluetooth during a telehealth visit to provide their physician with a remote stethoscope, thermometer, oxygen sensor, heart rate monitor, EKG, and more. It even includes a high-definition camera that physicians can control remotely and use for multiple purposes, including as an otoscope for ear exams.

“I truly believe at-home diagnostics will become as pervasive as [buying a] Starbucks.”

—Dr. Trevor Hawkins, global head of HP 200A

"I can actually see what’s happening while you’re doing it in real time and tell you exactly what the inside of your ear looks like,” explains Samir Qamar, a physician by training and CEO of MedWand.

As more physicians and patients get comfortable with using these kinds of solutions, HP’s Hawkins envisions a future in which they become everyday tools for patient health and wellness.

“I truly believe at-home diagnostics will become as pervasive as [buying a] Starbucks,” he says. 

Personalized wellness and treatment

New home wellness innovations can also help patients treat some health-related issues on their own without having to pop down to the pharmacy or wait for an appointment with their doctor. Fluo Labs has recently developed a handheld device that can relieve allergy symptoms like a runny nose or sneezing in 12 seconds by shining a precisely calibrated red light directly into the user’s nostrils, which the company says blocks the release of histamines and reduces inflammation that cause allergy symptoms.

Older Asian woman looking at a CareOS Themis mirror to analyze her skincare.

© CareOS

The Themis mirror uses AI to analyze skin and includes a 360-degree camera, magnifier, and infrared sensor, which checks for UV sun damage.

At-home “wellness companions” such as Themis, a smart mirror that acts as a wellness tracking system, claim to monitor a whole spectrum of wellness, including  hygiene, preventive care, beauty, and mental health. “Themis has advanced sensors such as infrared and UV lights to track a larger scope of biometrics: temperature and skin analysis, for example,” says Thomas Serval, executive chairman of CareOS, the maker of Themis.

The Themis mirror includes a 360-degree camera, magnifier, infrared sensor (which checks skin for UV sun damage), and voice command capabilities. It also displays local weather, pollution and UV indexes, and features beauty tutorials and a skin coach app that provides skincare recommendations.

From diagnosing and tracking to treating and preventing ailments, healthcare solutions are rapidly moving from a clinical environment to the convenience of home, and helping patients monitor and share their health status. Hawkins believes these developments will improve the quality of healthcare and people’s access to it.

“Telehealth and home solutions have the promise of true democratization of healthcare, making advice and guidance available to all,” says Hawkins.


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