LabCorp Reaching Past Doctor’s Office To The Patient

With the rise of online medical and diagnostic tools, mobile health apps and wearables, people are taking their health into their own hands, perhaps more than ever.

So Laboratory Corp. of America (NYSE:LH), a diagnostic giant, is reaching past the doctors’ offices directly to the public. The company is letting consumers order tests, like one to measure their cholesterol from their blood drawn at a LabCorp center, and view their results online without first going to a doctor.

While LabCorp says it hasn’t seen a huge surge for tests ordered directly by patients so far, it’s counting on the future. Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) thinks so much of the idea, it’s partnered with LabCorp to interpret the data of consumer clients in a new $ 100 million venture called Helix, financed by Warburg Pincus, Sutter Hill Ventures and Illumina.

“After being (gene-)sequenced, individuals will be able to manage their data and explore an open marketplace of on-demand applications, provided by Helix’s partners, to gain additional insights into the genomic data that has already been acquired,” Illumina said last week.

Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine will help Helix develop new apps.

“I think demand will definitely grow as the consumer becomes more interested in health care,” LabCorp CEO David King told IBD. “We have a new generation of consumers that are much more engaged with their day-to-day health care activities.”

Opening Access, State By State

In July, Arizona approved a law that lets patients ask for their own tests. Washington, D.C. and 27 other states have similar laws on the books, but Arizona’s is the most expansive, opening up nearly the entire test menu to consumers.

“The general trend of consumers taking a more active approach to their health care is leading to the expansion of this kind of test offering,” said Michael Cherny, a managing director at Evercore ISI. And competition in the area is increasing. Theranos offers take-home tests at Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA) for HIV, as well as other tests that provide sensitive results in private.

Some doctors worry that even with a slew of information on health available online, people can still misinterpret results or take abnormal results more seriously than they should.

LabCorp is making consumer information a top priority.

“The most important thing for us is to handle it in a way that’s responsible so we make sure consumers understand the tests they are ordering and what else is necessary to reach a diagnosis,” King said.

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