“In a few years, the idea of receiving medical treatment exclusively at a doctor’s office or hospital will seem quaint.”
— Harvard Business Review
Do-it-yourself (DIY) diagnostics offers consumers the ability to analyse and self-diagnose symptoms or conditions via accessible technological innovations. The self-diagnoses are used to determine following steps. Some applications indicate whether a consultation is necessary but in other cases the healthcare professional is eliminated altogether. A technology that was originally developed for consumers may turn out to be applicable by professionals as a rapid test by the bed of the patient. This is referred to as Point-of-Care (PoC) diagnostics.
Applications & benefits
Applications of DIY diagnostics vary from simple measurements to the complete unravelling of a genome or microbiome. Rapid tests allow for people to measure the haemoglobin level in their blood, test their fertility and diagnose a bladder infection and various STDs from the comfort of their home. Other possibilities include identifying kidney failure, HIV or even the presence of a high-risk gene for breast cancer [1, 2]. All it takes is an easy-to-obtain sample: a urine or faecal sample, a drop of blood or a mucus smear. Even tears and sweat can be used[3,4]. In addition, smartphone gadgets for diagnostic testing are on the rise . Examples include a sensor add-on that can make an ECG and a smart phone case that measures blood oxygen and stress levels. Applications inform people about things like genetic conditions and help them make conscious lifestyle choices. On top of that, active participation in one’s own health is associated with improved cognitive, behavioural, physical and affective results [2,6,7].
The global market value of DIY diagnostics is growing rapidly. The market value was $34.4 billion in 2020 and increased to a total of $43.5 billion in 2021. The coronavirus outbreak made a major contribution to this growth; the use of self tests has exploded since 2020. The market will continue to grow in the years ahead. The global market value of DIY diagnostics is expected to increase to $81.5 billion by 2028, in part due to the growing number of acute and chronic diseases and the associated demand for diagnostic tools. Technological developments are making the tests increasingly accurate and less prone to error, driving the demand for these products . The consumer market for genetic tests is experiencing continued rapid growth as well: over 30 million people have now analysed their DNA using a home kit .
Growing connectivity and improved data infrastructure
Changing healthcare needs
New technological capabilities
Increasing emphasis on privacy sensitivity
Data leads to misinterpretation
A call for evidence
Diagnostic tests have to be extremely reliable: it is important to keep the number of false positives and false negatives very low, which puts a lot of burden of proof on the tests. In addition, patients being able to interpret the results of their own tests requires knowledge. The desire and capabilities for people to do more themselves are growing: tests are becoming better and match the needs of the empowered patient.
Growing DIY diagnostics capabilities are giving consumers more control of their own healthcare process and support the evolution of the empowered patient. In addition, integration of various DIY applications with the internet and increasing information exchange contribute to autonomic systems. Healthcare becomes more personalised, preventive and perhaps even more predictive due to DIY Diagnostics. This provides the consumer with data to make conscious lifestyle choices. It is important for healthcare professionals to be included in the technological acceleration. They need to become aware of the possibilities and risks so they can answer their patients’ questions.
- MedGadget, Point-of-Care BRCA1 Mutation Testing in 20 Minutes, 2018 [Available from: https://www.medgadget.com/2018/11/point-of-care-brca1-mutation-testing-in-20-minutes.html]
- Carrera, P.M. and A.R. Dalton, Do-it-yourself healthcare: the current landscape, prospects and consequences. Maturitas, 2014. 77(1): p. 37-40.
- Lee, S.H., Y.C. Cho, and Y. Bin Choy, Noninvasive Self-diagnostic Device for Tear Collection and Glucose Measurement, Sci Rep, 2019. 9(1): p. 4747.
- Kuzma, C., The state of sweat testing, 2018 [Available from: https://furthermore.equinox.com/articles/2018/06/sweat-testing]
- Bauer, M., Glenn, T., Geddes, J., Gitlin, M., Grof, P., Kennis, L.V., Monteith, S., Faurholt-Jepsen, M., Severus, E. & Whybrow, P.C., Smartphones in mental health: a critical review of background issues, current status and future concerns, Int J Bipolar Disord, 2020. 1(2).
- Souliotis, K., Patient participation in contemporary health care: promoting a versatile patient role, Health Expect, 2016. 19(2): p. 175-8.
- Vahdat, S., et al., Patient involvement in health care decision making: a review, Iran Red Crescent Med J, 2014. 16(1): p. e12454.
- Fortune Business Insights, Point of care (POC) Diagnostics Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Product (Blood Glucose Monitoring, Infectious Diseases, Cardiometabolic Diseases, Pregnancy & Infertility Testing, Hematology Testing, and Others), By End User (Hospital Bedside, Physician’s Office Lab, Urgent Care & Retail Clinics, and Homecare/Self-Testing) and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028, 2021 [Available from https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/point-of-care-diagnostics-market-101072]
- Advisory Board, Has the consumer DNA test boom gone bust?, 2020 [Available from https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/02/20/dna-tests]