Testing is a key part of disease management.
Why is testing important?
Keeping track of different aspects of one’s health helps to identify patterns that may be influencing one’s disease activity. By identifying patterns, certain things can be adjusted to improve one’s health, such as: diet, medication, supplements, exercise, and overall lifestyle.
For example, individuals living with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) may perform a home calprotectin test if their doctor requests one. The results of this test helps to provide important information about one’s levels of inflammation. Learn more about calprotectin testing here.
How is testing currently done?
On-site testing is the main way that patients currently get their health-related tests done. For example, visiting the hospital to provide blood, stool, among other samples. These tests come along with many costs, from administrative and staff costs, to costs for the patient such as transportation, loss in work, and sometimes, the test itself (if not covered by services like the NHS).
Some individuals already take part in home testing services such as at home calprotectin tests, or at-home blood tests.
How often is testing done?
The frequency of these tests depend on the individual and their personal health situation. For example, a calprotectin test may be performed to diagnose IBD. An individual may not have this test performed again, especially if their test shows no sign of inflammation in their stool.
However an individual with IBD may get testing done twice a year to see how active their disease is.
Are hospital tests expensive?
Conducting these tests in hospitals can be costly, both in terms of resources and time. Currently around half a million people in the UK are living with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
A hospital test needs to be booked, administered by a nurse and processed, and each stage of this costs money.
Many of these appointments are missed. According to the NHS at least 1 in 20 GP appointments are missed. Each of these costs the NHS around £30. Missed specialist appointments typically cost more. If we assume did not attend (DNA) rates are similar for specialist appointments and 1 in 20 appointments for IBD testing are missed, that could be up to 25,000 missed appointments costing the NHS at least £750,000. We have written an article on DNAs which you can read here.
What at home testing looks like for IBD
As mentioned, many people with IBD will have faecal calprotectin testing done to measure levels of calprotectin in their stool. This level helps indicate to their clinician how much inflammation is present and how high their disease activity is (or if it is active at all). The team at Ampersand Health partnered with Calpro AS last year to help aid in this process.
To complete the test, patients are given step-by-step instructions and are asked to take an image of their home test result on their mobile phone. The results are then read by the app and a reading is provided. Their clinician is then alerted in case the results show that the patient needs some kind of intervention or care.
The benefit of doing a test like this at home is that because results are submitted quickly, if a patient has a flare, it can be treated quickly as well.
The benefit of this new model of care
There are many different benefits to home testing, including:
- A better, more efficient pathway for care
- More self-ownership over one’s condition
- Less costs for both the NHS and the patient
- The ability to receive care no matter where you are
- Providing patients with more confidence regarding their self-management
- Freeing up clinicians time to focus on those who are unwell (rather than having unnecessary appointments)