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27 April 2023

Remote monitoring using home health tests

This week in our series on remote monitoring (checking your own health data at home instead of your healthcare professional checking it for you in a clinic), we are going to look more closely at the benefits of doing home health tests. By this, I mean blood tests collected at home that then go off to a lab for analysis. 

Kinetik has recently partnered with an NHS lab to offer various blood tests at home (see home blood test for an article where I explain more about each of the tests that are offered in detail). This involves posting off a blood sample that is taken at home with a finger-prick. Let’s take a look at when arranging your own remote blood tests may (or may not!) be useful.

Remote Monitoring Using Home Health Tests

Dr Katie BlogWritten by Dr Katie Stephens, GP

Dr Katie graduated from the University of Manchester in 2007 (MBChB) and completed her GP training in the West Midlands in 2012 (MRCGP). 

 

Monitoring risk factors

You may be wondering about your risk factors for developing more serious conditions, such as cardiovascular disease (a collective term that includes heart attacks and strokes), in the future. Some of these risks are inherited in our genetics and not modifiable – we are stuck with what we are given. Others are very much down to human decisions with diet and lifestyle. We know that two important risk factors for cardiovascular disease that fall in this second category are high cholesterol and diabetes. 

Both of these can be detected with a blood test. And, if you have a raised or abnormal result, you can then take action to bring the numbers back towards the target range, thereby lowering your risk. This might be through making lifestyle changes or starting medication, or both. 

Knowing your numbers, especially if you have a concerning personal or family medical history, means you may be able to make these changes early and prevent something more serious happening down the line. We all know that, where possible, prevention is always preferable to treatment. 

Curiosity with ongoing conditions

For anyone reading this who has been diagnosed with Diabetes or Thyroid problems (over or underactive), you will already be aware of the need for ongoing monitoring of your relevant blood markers and should be having this done at regular intervals with your NHS GP or specialist. 

Checking the HbA1c (average sugar level over a 3 month period) for people with diabetes gives us a good idea of how tight the sugar control is, and what the risk is of damage to various organs from high sugar levels. 

Checking TFTs (Thyroid Function Tests) for people with thyroid disease helps us see the effect of current medication on the thyroid gland and whether any changes may need to be made. It also might help give an explanation for any symptoms someone is having. 

If you are curious about what your levels are doing in between the regular monitoring that your doctor does – for instance, if you manage to lose a few pounds through diet and exercise and want to see what effect this has on your HbA1c – then supplementing with these remote tests would certainly do the job. (Of course, if you have abnormal TFT results, please discuss these with your doctor who can then give you reliable advice about making medication changes.) 

Was it COVID-19?

At some point in the last 2 years, many of us will have had a mild viral symptom and wondered whether or not it could have been COVID-19. We offer tests to see if you’ve had a previous COVID-19 infection. 

Of course, these shouldn’t take the place of government advice regarding when to do lateral flow testing and PCR testing (https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test), especially as they don’t check for a current infection, only a past infection. But they might satisfy the curiosity of those who have had mild or unusual symptoms without known exposure that didn’t warrant a PCR at the time. 

A negative result would mean that either it wasn’t COVID-19, or your immune system’s response has reduced so much since the infection that antibodies aren’t at a level high enough to be detected. 

Alongside this, there are also tests to see if your body has responded to a previous COVID-19 vaccination. 

An alternative to ‘Dr Google’

Hopefully more useful than googling symptoms is actually getting tests done. Have you been wondering if your supplements are keeping your Vitamin D levels high enough in these darker winter months? Or if your dry skin is due to an issue with your thyroid? These tests can certainly play a helpful role in getting answers for you. 

However, it’s important to point out that even doctors are advised against self-diagnosis. So, if you do have any symptoms that are concerning you, while ruling certain conditions in or out through home health tests can be beneficial, it should be done as a supplement to proper medical advice, and not a replacement for it. Speaking to a doctor will mean that you know you’re getting the right tests done and not missing anything important, meaning that any normal results will give you proper peace of mind. 

In addition to the above, there are the other obvious benefits of home health testing – no need for spending time traveling or waiting in a clinic, being able to easily have a copy of your results to refer to, and, if you get your tests done through Kinetik, knowing that the lab used is a reliable NHS facility.

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