Making a doctor’s appointment is a hassle, and to be honest, we’d rather stay out of germy doctors’ offices (especially with COVID top of mind). But avoiding the doctor is risky: Studies show that when you’re ill, an earlier diagnosis increases the odds of successful treatment. Luckily, new at-home health tests make it possible to get a diagnosis and care without a doctor visit. “Getting tested at your convenience can save time by avoiding long lines and wait times”, says Nisha Jayani, M.D., an endocrinologist with Paloma Health. And while they aren’t covered by insurance, you can pay for any of these expert-recommended tests with funds from a flexible spending account or a health savings account from a qualifying insurance plan.
Home Tests for Urinary Tract Infections
If you get repeat urinary tract infections (UTIs), you know the drill: Book an appointment, get tested, get antibiotics. If only you could fast-forward to treatment! Scanwell Health’s UTI Test Kit makes it possible. At three tests for $15, the test is similar to the strip you’d urinate on at a doctor’s office, but it’s linked to an app that provides instant results. If you test positive, the app connects you with a virtual doctor who can prescribe antibiotics. Prefer a natural cure? “Supplementing with D-mannose cures UTIs and prevents future infections”, asserts Elizabeth Bonham, M.D., medical director at the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachussetts. In fact, taking 4,000 mg. daily was shown to kick-start healing within 24 hours and cut chronic UTI flares by 75 percent.
Home Tests for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea testing used to mean spending the night in a lab hooked up to wires. Today, Lofta offers the Home Sleep Apnea Test with a wearable, watch-like device. “You sleep in your usual positions with your usual pillow, which gives us real-world data”, says Sara Benjamin, M.D., a sleep specialist at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep. The $189 test is interpreted by a sleep physician, and if yours shows you have apnea, you may need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to monitor your breathing. But Brazilian research shows that daily mouth exercises (like those in the Soundly Reduce Snoring app, in the Apple app store) can cut apnea severity by 39 percent — without a machine.
Home Tests for Food Sensitivities
Insurance claims for food reactions have risen 377 percent in recent years, but who wants to give vials of blood for a sensitivity test? Instead, Everlywell’s $159 Food Sensitivity Test measures your immune response to 96 foods via a DIY finger-prick test, and it includes a virtual consultation with a dietitian to discuss your results. Prefer to skip testing? Vincent Pedre, M.D., author of Happy Gut, advises an elimination diet. “For two weeks, jot down what you eat and any symptoms, like cramps or diarrhea. When you see a pattern, remove the problem foods for two weeks. Then reintroduce one food at a time and track your response.” Finally, eliminate problematic foods permanently.
Home Tests for COVID-19
“To get this disease under control, we need widespread testing. But not enough people are being tested”, says William W. Li, M.D., author of Eat to Beat Disease. One way to increase testing: at-home COVID-19 tests.
The problem? At-home tests aren’t foolproof, and administering them is tricky. “It’s like baking a cake: You have to follow the instructions to the letter to get an accurate result”, says Emily Volk, M.D., president-elect of the College of American Pathologists. Nate Favini, M.D., medical lead of Forward, a primary- care practice in New York, adds, “Even when administered by a professional, current tests only catch about 70 percent of cases. So if your test is negative but you have symptoms consistent with coronavirus, you should self-isolate until your symptoms have resolved.”
While you’re more likely to get an accurate result if you visit a doctor, if you prefer a DIY test, Pixel by LabCorp, Everlywell, Vault and Vitagene offer tests that are authorized by the FDA. “Home tests cost $100 to $200”, says Dr. Favini. “Ask if the company can bill your insurance or get federal grant funding if you don’t have insurance. If so, your test will likely be free.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.