People with diabetes are likely to be familiar with a finger prick or ‘fingerstick’ blood test because it is typically part of their everyday life. But, if you don’t have a health condition that needs monitoring regularly, you might only be familiar with getting your blood drawn at a lab through a venous - or vein - blood draw.
Some patients are all too familiar with the vials and vials of blood that have to be drawn on a regular basis for managing chronic conditions. But there is an easier way! Small-volume blood draws, carried out with a small, handheld lancet at home are available mainstream with easy, inexpensive, and fast at-home testing capabilities that are just as accurate as traditional lab testing - So how does home blood testing work exactly?
How does at home blood testing work?
Home blood testing, often called a ‘capillary blood draw’, is a blood sample taken from capillaries which are small blood vessels in the extremities like your heel or finger tips. These capillaries deliver vital nutrients and oxygen throughout the body and they’re perfect to use for drawing small volumes of blood for testing.
In 6 steps; here’s how the home blood testing process typically works at imaware™:
#1 The imaware™ kit arrives in the mail
Once you’ve ordered online, your imaware™ at-home test kit is delivered in 5-7 business days (This can be expedited for faster shipping) and is equipped with everything you will need to complete your test completely from home. Testing devices and instructions are unique to each test that you order - in this case, we’re showing the contents for our Vitamin D Home Test. Each test is equipped with products that ensure your sample stays stable through the mail and onto the lab!
Contents included for this test:
- Instructions & registration card
- 1x hemaspot collection device
- 1x alcohol swab
- 1x bandage
- 2x lancets
- Clinical waste bag
- Pre-paid return envelope
#2 A quick online kit activation
Next you’ll need to activate your kit by creating a quick imaware™ account which allows you to register your kit and binds your sample ID to you individually. You will also be able to view your results in the same patient portal after we receive your sample.
All you need is access to the internet! It is very important to activate your kit when you receive it - without it, we will have difficulties processing your sample and reporting results back to you! As part of the registrations process, you’ll be guided through your sample journey with some easy-to-understand online tutorials.
#3 Collect your blood sample
Each test works a little differently, so each sample collection device may require different steps. But, when you receive your imaware™ test, you’ll get a link to watch instructional videos for your specific test like the one shown above.
In most cases, you will be asked to puncture your finger tip using a small handheld lancet (not a needle). Don’t worry, it’s pretty painless. The beauty of small volume capillary blood draw is that with just a few drops of blood, you’ll be able to get accurate lab test results from home.
For finger prick at-home blood tests, there are some tips and tricks we advise our patients for collecting the best sample possible:
- Be well hydrated before collecting your sample. It’s easier and faster to collect a blood sample if you’re fully hydrated because it thins your blood. You can start by drinking enough water the day before, and another glass of water an hour before the test.
- Warming up your fingers by running your hands under warm water will help with blood flow in the hands. You can also help the process by getting active and moving around for about five minutes prior to the draw.
- The ring finger is a great finger to pull the collection from as it is generally not as calloused as the rest of your fingers.
- The lancet should be firmly pressed into the middle-side of the finger. Not in the middle, due to the nerves there and not too close to the side because it's more difficult to produce the amount of blood required there.
- If possible, avoid squeezing your finger to get the drops required as that can affect the blood sample. If you have to squeeze the finger to get the collection started, massage your finger from the palm to the first knuckle of your finger.
#4 Package and return your sample to the lab
Inside each of our collection kits includes a secure mailing bag and prepaid shipping label so you can send your sample to our labs - we advise our patients to send your collection on the same day that you take your sample to make sure the lab receives the freshest sample possible. Shipping back to the lab is expedited via two day UPS air, you’ll just need to drop your packaged sample into your nearest UPS drop box.
#5 Lab processing
Once you’ve dropped off your sample, it's on its way to the laboratory. In a few days, it will arrive at one of our certified lab partners that have been expertly evaluated to fit each of our individual test’s needs.
The labs that we use for imaware™ tests are certified by Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). CLIA certification is required for all labs licensed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CLIA-certified labs must continually meet a wide range of quality standards on equipment, technical protocols, and testing sensitivity. Each sample is handled, processed, and disposed as per CLIA standards.
#6 Receive your doctor-reviewed results in our secure dashboard
In around 5-7 business days after returning your sample to our labs, your results are individually reviewed by a physician and loaded into our secure patient portal. When your results are ready, you'll receive an email notifying you that they are ready.
You can then login and view your results in the imaware™ patient portal. There you will find a clear breakdown of your results together with commentary and an overall scoring. Your digital results are also readily available to be downloaded as a PDF or emailed directly to your personal physician. For an idea of how this looks, download a sample report for our Home Vitamin D Test below:
What capabilities do home lab tests have?
Small volume blood testing can answer most of the same questions that venous blood testing can answer. Many of the tests that are often performed in a laboratory or your doctor’s office can now be done at home.
With just a few drops of blood, home tests can test for:
- Cardiovascular health
- Immune system health
- Autoimmune disease
- Food and environmental allergies
- Men’s health issues like prostate cancer and low testosterone
- And general health and wellness biomarkers
Dr. E.P. Diamandis, the founding medical board member at imaware™, spent his career validating novel biomarkers in small volume blood.
Before our public launch, imaware™ worked with labs to validate our capillary sample collection and scientifically compared it to venous draw. The data collected was published in CCLM, a global peer-review magazine. Each biomarker that imaware™ has since launched has "venous to capillary" data to ensure the test results from your finger can match the test results from your venous draw.
We also utilize collection devices that have strong data and FDA class 1 clearance to support the stability of the sample taken at home, and is stable then for testing at the lab.
"imaware is the first direct-to-consumer company to have built a small-sample volume platform that is as reliable as traditional lab testing, enabling consumers to test from the comfort of their own home and engage their doctors sooner for diagnosis," said Dr. Diamandis, imaware medical advisor. "They are also the only small-volume testing company to have their test and data validated in a peer reviewed journal publication."
Founder of imaware™ Jani Tuomi is adamant about only launching tests that can help solve real-life problems for patients, and be validated by specialists in their field:
Benefits of at-home lab testing
So why take one of these tests at home? Well, there are numerous benefits to using a finger predict test at home, over having to visit a pharmacy, laboratory, or doctor’s office.
Home tests require less blood
Capillary blood draw at-home tests require less blood than your traditional venous blood draw that might require several vials. Thanks to our modern approach to testing, imaware™ kits require just 3-5 large drops of blood from the fingertip, depending on the test.
If you often get “blown veins”, or “collapsed veins” after a blood draw, where the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue, making it unusable for a blood draw, and painful and bruised for you - you might benefit from a capillary blood draw instead.
Also, If you have a difficult time with venous blood draw due to ‘rolling veins’, or if you’ve been told that you don’t have good veins, capillary blood tests might work better for you. It’s far less invasive to use a finger prick lancet than it is to use a needle and collect multiple vials. Plus, you don’t have to be trained to use a lancet, it’s super easy to use. If you have one finger that is too calloused to use, you have 9 other digits to try. We provide an extra lancet in case you can’t get enough blood from the first finger stick.
Drawing blood is much less invasive
Those that might get queasy or feel faint from looking at blood being drawn from a needle might feel more comfortable being in control of their own administration using a spring loaded lancet. Rather than a larger vial of blood being drawn, the blood required for a finger tip prick looks more like what you’d see from a paper cut. If you have fainted while getting your blood drawn in the past because you’re uncomfortable with blood or needles, a lancet might be easier to stomach!
There’s no need to go to a doctor’s office
Every year, millions of people avoid traditional lab testing because it can be costly and inconvenient. While some of us have a physician that can draw blood samples and send them to a laboratory directly from their office, not everyone is so lucky. Some patients might need to make another stop at a laboratory to collect a blood sample.
This often includes time and energy to make an appointment, drive to the lab, wait for your appointment, and then wait for the phlebotomist. This inconvenience is unnecessary as you can now get your labs drawn at home, and mailed out via UPS. Besides dropping the sample off at our shipping partner, imaware™ at home tests require not much more than walking to your mailbox!
Samples remain stable
Another benefit is that unlike blood in vials, your blood sample won’t deteriorate and doesn’t require a temperature-controlled environment. A home test sample will remain 100% stable, even in transit. imaware™ uses unique blood collection methods that optimally preserve your sample for the specific test you’re choosing.
In contrast to traditional blood draws, a finger prick is typically less painful than a needle-based blood draw, especially if you’ve ever had a hard time giving blood, or have had blown veins.
Lancets come in varying types and sizes. While lancets are typically less painful, there are variations in pain levels associated with the finger prick samples between the lancet varieties. imaware™ has gone through rigorous testing of various different lancets on the market to find the most pain-free lancet that is still able to ensure sample collection works first time.
Get fast results
Normally, when you need a blood test, you go to a testing center. A technician draws your blood and sends it to a lab for analysis — but delays can be frequent. The sample may be sent late or processed slowly, and it can take even more time for your doctor to pass on your results depending on their capacity. imaware™ is happy to report that the vast majority of our samples result within 5-7 business days of being received by our lab testing partners.
Lab companies charge high prices, due to the costs of staffing testing centers and the challenges of insurance reimbursement. If you are lucky enough to have health insurance that covers lab testing, some plans might come with high deductibles that must be met before coverage. Without health insurance, or with a high deductible insurance plan, traditional laboratories and their tests might not be financially viable for some patients.
Drawbacks of at-home testing
While at-home lab testing is a fast, efficient, and inexpensive method of testing, self-administration can cause challenges. For example, some people might have very calloused fingers, and find it tricky to draw their sample, even with our effective lancets. Some people might be very dehydrated, and have a hard time collecting enough blood - even 3-5 drops. Also because small-volume blood testing is a relatively young industry, many specialty laboratories are able to offer more tests using vials of blood taken at traditional labs.
To mitigate these challenges, at imaware™ we provide extra lancets in our packaging to help with sufficient blood draw, we also ask our patients to drink plenty of water before testing and to take dedicated time out of your day to collect a quality sample. We are also constantly expanding our testing menu based on the needs of our patients and advice from our medical board.
After your at-home test
No laboratory test is intended to diagnose a condition. A positive (or negative) result for any lab testing is intended to initiate further diagnosis and conversation with a medical professional. For example, a positive celiac disease screening test will prompt an upper endoscopy with a biopsy by a gastroenterologist to fully diagnose celiac disease and rule out any other digestive diseases.
The results provided by imaware™ are designed to be shared with your doctor at your next visit. If results are of an emergent nature, imaware’s in-house physicians will reach out to you with next steps.
We have helped thousands of Americans take control of their health and we look forward to helping you start your journey.