May 15, 2010
Require Use Of Experts To Get Genetic Tests?
Let me go on record as disagreeing with the Association for Molecular Pathology. Genetic testing should be available without consent of a medical doctor.
In response to recent announcements about consumer genetic tests being made available in retail drugstores, the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) today reiterated its position that these tests should be provided to the public only through the services of appropriate health care professionals that order tests from laboratories that are certified by CLIA for highcomplexity testing.
More generally, I'd really like to see wider availability of medical tests without a visit to a doctor's office.
Think about the general trend with information: more, direct and easier access, greater availability. Microfluidic devices that serve as labs on a chip are going to be the next big thing in medical testing. No need to have your blood sent to a lab when you can literally carry the lab in your pocket. No need to go to a drug store or a doctor's office to get a test done.
Eventually we'll have medical testing devices embedded in our bodies doing real time monitoring to detect problems as soon as they happen. You'll wave a smart phone over your body to read your embedded test lab, the phone will analyze the results, and then it'll pass the results up to a diagnostic server on the web to get run thru expert systems to do difficult diagnoses.
Regulations that keep visits to a doctor's office in the loop block the sorts of innovative real time diagnostics that should be the future of medicine.
Especially since they're likely to charge several hundred for a ten minute visit.
It's just the natural reflex for any industry facing the unwelcome prospect of becoming obsolete. But you can't stop the democratization, the increased availability and affordability, just like you can't keep people from reading news online for free, or downloading music. I think this development is likely to thin the herd of medical professionals by a BIG chunk. I'm guessing 20 years from now, the doctors that are left will mostly be working in R&D, and have very little to do with treatments, surgery, and general consultation.
Private, fast DIY STD testing would be nice. Just think of the lives and grief that could be saved if a simple AIDS test existed that could provide resualts to potential partners in just a few minutes. Wait, the test does exist (since 1988),however it is only avaiable at ERs and other medical locations. Why? because the FDA does not think adults can handle knowledge about their own bodies without a medical professional being involved.
In my area the local hospital provides a service where I can walk in off the street, fill out a simple form that has about 20 standardized tests on it (everything from a PSA screen to a complete blood workup), pay a modest fee, and have the testing done on the spot. Three or four tests will usually run you about $60.00, and you could probably have every test on the sheet done for a couple of hundred...and the wait is usually less than an hour.
I have found this service incredibly convenient and incredibly cheap, compared to the traditional alternatives. And yes, this is exactly the type of thing we need to see much more of. Ya wanna bring down medical expenses? This is a helluva good way to start.