Blood tests play an important role in keeping people healthy and treating disease, along with providing key insights for clinical research and public health. Although 70% of medical decisions are based off lab results¹, the conventional blood draw process involving a lab visit poses challenges to patients that were only made greater by the pandemic. Complicated logistics, costs, and increased risk of exposure to infectious diseases, especially during COVID-19 surges, all contribute to a significant number of lab orders being unfulfilled.
The CDC estimates over 40% of Americans have delayed or avoided medical care because of the pandemic², with one international study showing a nearly 40% drop in blood tests during lockdown.³ Understanding the long-term impacts of these statistics will take many years, but the potential clinical effects are striking. When scheduled blood work isn’t done, early, treatable signs of conditions can be missed, drug failure and disease progression might not be identified, and clinical trials risk losing participants to follow up, rendering studies less powerful.
To promote better access to care, the healthcare system is shifting toward safer, more convenient, and efficient patient services. This change in focus highlights the need for easier blood tests that will help increase compliance with completing lab orders, optimize healthcare, and improve patient outcomes. In response, innovative blood draw technologies are paving the way toward a new, more resilient and patient-friendly era of at-home sample collection for diagnostic testing and clinical research.
Limitations to traditional blood collection processes make it harder for patients to complete testing
A typical blood draw involves visiting a lab to have a trained phlebotomist collect a blood sample via venipuncture, where a needle is used to access a vein and collect a sample for analysis. This model introduces drawbacks in terms of patient experience, including the following:
- Patients need to allocate time and resources to get to a lab: Travel time to get to and from a lab can be significant, particularly in rural areas where facilities are more spread out. If a person is unable to drive or doesn’t have a vehicle, they might have to coordinate, or pay for, transportation. Then, the time for check-in processes, waiting to be seen, and finally having blood drawn could add up to hours. And if labs aren’t open outside of a patient’s work schedule, completing blood tests could result in lost wages. These factors can all contribute to patients not going to the lab at all.
- Entering a clinic introduces opportunity for infectious disease transmission: The COVID-19 pandemic has made people more likely to avoid situations where there’s an increased risk of infectious disease transmission. Having to take public transportation to a laboratory or sit in a crowded waiting room could be deterrents to care for patients looking to exercise caution.
- Needles and being in medical setting can conjure anxiety: Up to 25% of adults have a fear of needles⁴ and as many as one in three people suffer from white coat syndrome⁵, or an increase in blood pressure in medical settings. Venipuncture is an invasive and painful procedure, so some people might avoid getting blood tests due to the physical or emotional discomfort.
- The need for specially trained staff increases overall healthcare costs: To minimize risk of patient injury and sample contamination, venipuncture requires skilled, specially trained staff. The process’s reliance on phlebotomists contributes to overall laboratory medicine and health system costs.
At-home sample collection and diagnostic testing offer advantages to promote compliance
Devices for at-home collection of blood samples are designed with usability in mind, so patients can conveniently manage the process in a comfortable space. Capillary sampling, where blood is collected from a quick finger prick, is used instead of venipuncture. This model introduces many advantages, including the following:
- Patients save time by collecting a sample at home and sending it to the lab via mail: Giving patients the freedom and flexibility to collect a sample anywhere, at any time, and manage it through the mail makes blood testing easier and more accessible. This added convenience could be especially significant in promoting compliance for patients in rural areas, those who require blood tests frequently, or people with busy schedules, mobility challenges, or limited resources for travel.
- Eliminating the need to travel and enter a medical setting reduces risk of infectious disease exposure: Since home collection devices exclusively rely on mail exchange instead of person-to-person interaction, patients can feel safer completing their lab work, especially during times when COVID-19, flu, or other infectious diseases are circulating within the community.
Finger prick collection in a space where patients feel most comfortable helps ease anxieties: To ease anxieties around needles and lab procedures, the CDC recommends providing patients with a quiet, comfortable place for procedures and finding ways to minimize pain.⁶ There’s arguably no place more comforting than one’s home, and capillary collection is less painful and invasive than venipuncture due to the use of a shorter, smaller needle.
- Home collection devices are accessible and don’t require specialized training or skills: A major advantage of capillary sampling via finger prick is that the process can be done by most anyone. Without the need for trained phlebotomists, lab service costs are reduced and there is less demand on clinics during times when healthcare appointments and resources are limited. Additionally, greater access to testing and easier blood collection could drive greater wellness across populations, reducing healthcare system costs.
A more convenient, flexible, and streamlined approach to blood collection would address some of the existing barriers affecting patients’ ability and willingness to complete testing as ordered. Access to at-home devices offers the potential for greater insight into personal and public health measures, which may ultimately lead to improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. Easier, more consistent monitoring options may also foster better enrollment for more robust clinical trials, helping to advance promising therapies in research and enhance overall patient care.
Watch our video to see how Weavr Health makes at-home blood collection simple, intuitive, and convenient.
- 2. Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19–Related Concerns — United States, June 2020 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
- 3. The effect of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on consultation numbers, consultation reasons and performed services in primary care: results of a longitudinal observational study (nih.gov)