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02 August 2022

Walk of shame – or click of mouse?

Covid-19 changed our way of working, our daily life, but most of all the way we deliver healthcare.

Some of these changes – like doing Teams calls in your jammies, or skipping the sardine-can commute – may even be good.

Covid has sped up our use of eHealth services and forced us to deliver our healthcare more digitally.

And of course, it has made us all much more aware of our own health. eHealth has proved to be a particularly good way of providing healthcare for diseases which are taboo – like sexual transmitted infections. Talk to your friendly GP about an STD? It’s embarrassing. Go back for a follow-up? Possibly not.

But what if you could order these tests online?

We wanted to find out how that option changes patient behaviour. So Unilabs Netherlands took part in a large scientific study that looked at online access to diagnostic testing and results – without direct contact to healthcare professionals.

This research showed that when patients were offered home test for STDs, rather than clinic appointments …  tests doubled.

Of course, online access saves time as well. All in all, this means that offering online tests for sexual transmitted infections can lower the threshold for testing. Factors contributing to this are among others ease of use, anonymity, and less embarrassment. The bottom line is that more tests are performed.  

Some doctors are sceptical about follow-up care. However, this research showed that more than 90% of patients with a positive home-based STD test accepted follow-up treatment. The others either opted for a confirmatory test – and only a few delayed treatment or did nothing. And let’s be clear: if twice as many people get tested, that’s a public health win.   

So concerns about online ordering and home testing seem overblown: patients are satisfied with the process, they appreciate the convenience, it increases the number of tests – and patients take their medicine.

There are lots of online services providing tests for STDs, including Unilabs’ Directlab Online. And of course, the process works just as well for other kind of tests where patients can easily swab their materials or perform self-sampling of blood, urine, or stool.

Patients tell us they want to be in control of their own healthcare. And being able to order tests online is very much part of that. For now, the proportion of home tests is still small, albeit growing fast. In the years to come, as patients adapt and technology advances, we may see this shift as the beginning of a revolution in healthcare. 


Author: Kyma Schnoor, Unilabs Digital Innovation Team
Research: Versluis A, Schnoor K, Chavannes NH, Talboom-Kamp EP. Direct Access for Patients to Diagnostic Testing and Results Using eHealth: Systematic Review on eHealth and Diagnostics
J Med Internet Res 2022;24(1):e29303