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I was watching football games today and during one of the commercial breaks I saw an ad for Quest Labs offering, without a doctor’s prescription, lab testing that a person wants to obtain.  

I was taken by surprise by this as up until now, I thought that lab testing needed to be ordered by as treating doctor.  I went online and sure enough “Quest Direct” offers a number of lab testing panels that a person can order for him/herself.  After paying the fee, the person goes to the lab, gets the blood draw and results are accessible through an online portal.

I suppose that doctors, including me, are somewhat “territorial” in their desire to be involved with a person’s medical workup.  Now, it is coming down to this:  A person feels some symptom(s), goes on WebMD or some other medical platform to explore what potential problems may be causing the symptom and then the person can proceed to order his/her own diagnostic testing.  Welcome to the new world of medical diagnosis.

What comes next?  Self-ordering MRIs or ultrasounds?  Having prescription medications become over the counter not requiring any doctor/NP/PA involvement?

Here come the (strongly opinionated) words from a 64 year old doctor that is obviously in the autumn (not winter yet!) of his medical career and has seen the practice of medicine taken away from independent doctors, placed mostly in the hands of mega sized hospital systems gobbling up doctors like Pacman and now the introduction of people self-directing their medical workups by ordering their own labs:

Let’s first look at weight control:  With 70% of our population being overweight, what confidence exists that people can succeed with “do it yourself” weight control efforts?  Clearly most people cannot.  What would make us believe that great insight into medical symptoms can be obtained by surfing medical websites, articles and a bunch of stuff where misinformation is easily spread?  

Sorry for the rant today and please do not take this entry as a “sour grapes” opinion because I am concerned that my business is “threatened” by Quest.  Hardly…what I see transpiring are situations where people will get back a panel of tests, see some abnormalities, freak out about what these mean, and will run to their doctors for an opinion.

Whether it be difficulty controlling weight, feeling more tired than you should be, having unexplained abdominal pain or other, please call your doctor first before going on Quest Online.  In your “quest” for health, your doctor, NP or PA is truly your partner.  The people at a laboratory know nothing about you other than your demographics and your payment information.  Your doctor knows lots more about you.