A busy life can make it difficult to find the time for a doctor's appointment, let alone the blood tests that often come with one. First, you need to call the doctor's office, sometimes waiting days for an appointment. And then you have to wait even longer for the results of any blood tests your doctor orders. But a new business in Sioux Falls is designed to minimize the wait by eliminating the "middle man." But is that such a good idea?
Stacey Tait-Goodale is curious about how her cholesterol level, blood counts, and glucose levels are doing after making changes to her diet and exercise program.
"It's just nice to have a screening tool and a baseline, and then I can manage my health from there," Tait-Goodale said.
So she decided to take several tests at a new business in Sioux Falls. The brochure for "Any Lab Test Now" lists 66 different lab tests available in one stop, all without a doctor's appointment.
"You can come to us, and we have a doctor on the backend that's ordering all these, and just pay an upfront fee. We do any lab test that a person wants," Any Lab Test Now Clinical Director Patrick Heitkamp said.
Heitkamp says using his company's services allows customers to avoid deductible or co-pay costs because the tests, which are sent to an outside lab for processing, aren't submitted to insurance.
"We don't diagnose. We don't treat. We just take the sample, send it to a certified laboratory and then, within a day or two, we send the results back to the person," said Heitkamp.
There's also no doctor's fee to pay because there's no doctor appointment. And while Dr. Dan Heinemann doesn't necessarily think that's a bad idea, he is concerned about follow-up once the results are in.
"It's one thing to get a laboratory test but it's another thing to understand in context to the individual what the lab test means," Heinemann said.
If you do have a positive result, Heitkamp says you can do one of two things; either go to your own doctor or use AmeriDoc, an online website that provides doctor consultations on the phone or online for a fee.
"We're not trying to replace the family doctor. It's just some people are more in tune with their health and don't feel like they need to have a doctor interpret every test they have," Heitkamp said.
"I think it creates the potential for a lot of worry and a lot of concern by patients who get these tests, don't understand what the tests mean and now are either calling or immediately want to get in to see their physician," Sanford Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Heinemann said.
Still Tait-Goodale likes the easy access so much she plans to use the service again in the future; not just for herself, but also for her four children.
"Sometimes it's not always easy to get in if somebody has symptoms of strep throat, something like that. I live five blocks away. I can run over here, get a strep culture. It's ten bucks. It saves me the co-pay. If the results are positive, then I can get them going on treatment pretty quick," Tait-Goodale said.
If the test results are positive and you need a prescription, some doctors may require an appointment with you and another lab test before they'll prescribe anything. Heitkamp adds that another possible benefit is that the test results don't have to go on your medical record.
The South Dakota State Medical Association also released a statment about the new business:
“The SDSMA believes it is critically important that all people have an established, ongoing relationship with a personal physician to provide first-contact, continuous and comprehensive health care. An ongoing relationship with a physician ensures that a patient will receive appropriate examinations and tests based on their individual medical history.
Further, the diagnosis of disease and diagnostic interpretation of tests constitutes the practice of medicine to be performed by or under the supervision of licensed physicians. While the SDSMA is not directly familiar with this facility, if the facility is engaged in these kinds of medical practices, the employees should be appropriately licensed and supervised by licensed physicians.
The most important issue here is patient safety and quality of care. Lab tests alone cannot diagnose disease; rather, test results can point someone in the direction of health care services. However, most physicians would not rely on these tests to diagnose and treat their patients, and this could result in potential duplication of services and excessive health care costs. A further concern is that in the case of negative test results, a facility such as this may not have protocols for ensuring continuity of care with practicing physicians within the community. In that event, patients who need the care of a physician potentially would not receive that care.”