Big Developments in DTC Testing Space

Two big developments in direct-to-consumer testing in October.  While one lab giant has teamed up with a major drugstore retailer to offer consumers the ability to test themselves at portals, another has opened it’s website to online tests.  We cover direct to consumer testing, routine and genetic, in our market research report on the topic. (  An updated study is planned in January.

It was previously thought that the space where consumers would be most likely to order testing would be in the genetic space, where companies like 23andMe and have signed up subscribers to have DNA samples taken to detect nationality and ancestry.  These of course are target customers for health and wellness genetic tests.

On the routine side we forecasted a small growthy market but we were less sanguine.  Theranos, was, at the time of the reports publication showing the first signs of its downfall.  Retail outlets like AnyTestNow attempted the concept, and to a degree they still exist and prosper in scale, but their market exposure is limited. There aren’t locations everywhere.  Our optimistic forecasts considered that large players in test performance would enter the space.

Now two developments have occurred in routine patient testing to take note of:

Quest has launched QuestDirect, an enhanced consumer-initiated testing service that empowers patients to manage and take control of their healthcare by ordering health and wellness lab testing from the convenience of their home.    To order, consumers can visit the QuestDirect website to conveniently shop online and choose their own lab tests. Independent physicians will provide oversight and, if appropriate, order the testing. Consumers can make an appointment online to visit one of Quest’s 2,200 patient service centers. Results are typically available within a week and can be accessed through MyQuest, where they can be easily shared with a consumer’s own doctor, or a with a family member through the new “My Circle” feature that allows approved family members and other users to connect through MyQuest.  Complete blood counts, complete molecular profiles, urine tests, are among those that can be utilized.

The entire clinical lab services market is premised on patients visiting doctors at a normal rate and physicians ordering tests as needed.  There never seemed to be a reason to think that would change, until now.

Similarly, Walgreens and LabCorp announced a large-scale expansion of their LabCorp at Walgreens collaboration. The two companies have agreed to open at least 600 LabCorp patient service centers at Walgreens stores across the U.S. over the next four years, inclusive of the 17 locations that have opened since they first announced their consumer-focused initiative in June 2017.  LabCorp at Walgreens locations are currently open in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Deerfield, Illinois, serving as an important part of LabCorp’s network of nearly 2,000 patient service centers across the U.S. Consumers and healthcare providers continue to have a positive response to the existing locations, which offer specimen collection services for LabCorp testing in a secure, comfortable environment. The sites are located near the pharmacy area inside the Walgreens store, providing a convenient location for consumers to access important health services and information.

It should be noted that both moves are early and are launched in a moment where the average consumer does not know tests and what they mean.  They know they have blood taken, and may be aware of a few key tests, such as cholesterol and glucose.  Greater knowledge of tests, and their meanings, may lead to increased demand. When a “CBC” still means to a lot of consumers, The Canadian Broadcast Company?  if it means anything at all, there’s a limit to the market. When everyone, or their apps knows what a CBC that could seriously disrupt testing markets.

It’s too early to tell the impact of direct-to-consumer testing though on the extreme end of prediction, the stakes are high.  The entire clinical lab services market is premised on patients visiting doctors at a normal rate and physicians ordering tests as needed.  There never seemed to be a reason to think that would change, until now.  An additional volume of tests from consumers bypassing the doctors office visit, likely fueled by technology that facilitates the origination and interpretation of tests, and generally, greater knowledge of tests by informed consumers could push clinical lab services markets (market opportunity/demand for the performance of tests) beyond previous estimates.  This also means the markets for in vitro diagnostic instruments and reagents could be augmented in a similar fashion.  Time will tell; it has been Kalorama’s practice to be conservative on such forecasts.