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28 Nov

CTV: Canadian pharmacies testing do-it-yourself blood test kiosks

November 28th, 2015

Several pharmacies in Canada, including Pharmacybc.com have begun installing do-it-yourself blood testing kiosks to help patients quickly check up on their health using just a tiny amount of blood. But not everyone thinks the testing systems are a good idea.

Ten pharmacies in British Columbia are now offering one blood testing system called HealthTab, which was developed by a pair of brothers from Vancouver.

After a pharmacist collects a few drops of blood from a finger prick, the sample is placed in a HealthTab machine which can then measure up to 21 key health markers, including cholesterol, triglycerides, kidney and liver function, blood sugar and more.

There’s no need for a doctor’s requisition, although there is a fee to use the system. But the company says it can offer results in just 15 minutes rather than days, with an accuracy that’s on par with most lab testing.

Users don’t need to return to their doctors for the results; the system automatically uploads them to a secured website, where users can log in from home or from their phone to see their numbers. Results are colour coded in green, orange and red to help patients clearly understand what’s within a normal range.

HealthTab co-founder Roger Seccombe says the system helps put health care back into the hands of patients.

“We want people to become more proactive and more engaged in how they manage their health,” he told CTV News.

“…We know we can do this by significantly improving the accessibility we have to these key (tests) for chronic disease.”

The blood test technology was developed by NASA years ago, Seccombe says, and it’s already in use in hospitals and testing labs in the U.S.

His company created the interface that brings the technology directly to patients, and has Health Canada’s permission to begin installing its kiosks into pharmacies.

“We’re the first in Canada using this device in pharmacies in a direct-to-patient model,” Seccombe said.

The company is now hoping to bring the system to more pharmacies outside of B.C., with their sights set on Alberta and Ontario next.

HealthTab is one of several companies moving to bypass traditional medical labs to allow patients to monitor their own health. But some worry about the trend.

Dr. Eleftherios Diamandis, a biochemist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, says he’s concerned that many patients will not understand how to read their results and will unnecessarily develop anxiety about the results.

“It could be a good thing for people who are educated and know how to see and interpret the results. It may not be a good thing for the average person who gets results and are confused about how to interpret them,” he said.

He also worries pharmacists may not have the training to be able to answer patients’ questions, nor will they know a patient’s full medical history to put the results into context. He’s also concerned that patients won’t follow up with their doctors.

“They could be assured they are healthy when a disease might be ensuing or the other way around: they may think they have a disease when nothing is going on,” he said.

Diamandis says the “self-care idea” is simplistic, and is not convinced it will improve overall health. But HealthTab’s Seccombe calls systems like his are “the way of the future” and rather than replace traditional lab testing, his system is meant to complement it.

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