At home health screening kits put to the test

Posted at 10:43 PM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 23:43:58-04

Home health screening kits are a multi-billion dollar industry and every year more and more Americans rely on the do it yourself medical kits than a doctor's opinion. But are they accurate and are they really worth the money? NBC26 looked into which type of kits gives you the most accurate reading on your health.

Checking your cholesterol, certain types of cancer and HIV can all be done from the comfort of your home now-a-days. But some in the medical field warn that sometimes it's best to have some face to face time with your doctor first before self diagnosing a problem.

Sales of home health screening kits are becoming more and more popular. Doctors admit that they are having more conversations with their patients about them.

"These home devices are good in that they keep patients engaged and they're increasing a patient’s knowledge about their own health. We always encourage that," says Dr. Scott Weslow of Aurora BayCare Cardiology.

The most popular kit doctors are hearing about are those used to test blood sugar levels.

"I think the glucose monitors are probably the most trustworthy as far as the accuracy of the reading," adds Dr. Weslow.

But there are others, like most cholesterol tests that merely give you a number indicating your total cholesterol.  Not quite the same as what a doctor would be able to share about your overall health.

"Most of them will just give you a total cholesterol reading. Which is not nearly as helpful as breaking it down into good cholesterol and bad cholesterol," adds Dr. Weslow.

Another popular at home testing kit is for HIV. At the Aids Resource Center in Green Bay their tests are extremely accurate.

"We do what is called a Rapid HIV Test... they are like 99.9 percent accurate," says Scott Stokes the Director of Prevention Services at the AIDS Resource Center Wisconsin located in Green Bay.

But some studies suggest at home HIV testing kits, the ones where you're asked to swab the inside of your mouth, often produce false negative results up to 10 percent of the time.

"A false negative means that you would get a negative test result but you would in fact have HIV," says Stokes.

"It does surprise me. I wouldn't be surprised if they said 10 percent came back false positive but coming back false negative really does surprise me," adds Stokes.

And while keeping tabs on your personal health is something any medical professional would support.

"The quicker you get into medical care the better your health outcomes are going to be," says Dr. Weslow.

Doctors just hope that as the at home kits continue to grow in popularity, you keep them in mind when you wrap up your at home test.

Between 2012 through 2017 it's estimated that at home health screening kits will generate 24 billion dollars worldwide. Just make sure you consult your doctor after getting your results to make sure they’re accurate.

According to some experts, one of the reasons that at home cholesterol testing kits often are misleading, are because people simply don't follow all the instructions on the packaging. A problem that is less common when you have a face to face appointment with your doctor.