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Health: Order Your Own Lab Tests

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Saving money on medical tests. There’s a growing trend of people ordering their own. Now you can save the time and cost of going through your doctor to check something like cholesterol. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl shows you how it works, and finds out if it’s safe.

Order your own lab tests, without seeing a doctor. The tests are easy to find and make claims of being private, convenient and affordable. Price being the big seller for many.

“I never realized that you can get lab tests that low cost, with some form of reliability,” said Peter Mango, a retired police chief from Chester County. He has been ordering his own blood tests online, from DirectLabs, to monitor his cholesterol.

“With the cost of health insurance and medical tests, we have to look right now to cut anything we can,” said Peter.

For $29, he goes to a lab where the blood is drawn, and days later the results are delivered to him in an email.

There are tests for a variety of things including cholesterol, blood sugar for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, hormones and vitamin levels.

“About 20 percent of the people we do test, have a problem, but these are people that would have not gone to the doctor because they weren’t sick or didn’t know they had a problem,” said John Bell, the Founder of DirectLabs.

He says they have their own doctors who order the tests and review the results, alerting patients if problems are detected.

So patients like Peter save money and time not having to go through their own doctor. Peter estimates he’s saved over a $1,000.

“You don’t realize the cost involved until you start paying out of pocket,” said Peter.

“I think I would be concerned,” said Dr. Albert Keshgegian, System Chairman with Main Line Health Labs. He worries about the reliability of direct-to-consumer lab tests, and says tests need to be interpreted in the context with the patient’s overall health.

“That same number might mean different things to different people,” said Dr. Keshgegian.

Peter eventually took his results to his doctor, who then put him on medication. But he’s glad he did the testing on his own.

“The balance between taking care of your health and weighing the impact of that on families’ finances is huge in this economy,” said Peter.

If you order your own medical tests, experts say it’s important to make sure the labs are accredited, and be wary of companies that offer treatments along with the results.

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DirectLabs