At-Home Blood Testing: How Does It Work?

It’s fast, affordable and accurate. Is at-home blood testing right for you?

Erica Dermer

Medically reviewed by

E. P. Diamandis, MD, Ph.D

and

Questions About Your Health?

Curious what your blood has to say about your current health? Try a test today.

Highlights

  • At-home blood testing is a convenient alternative to traditional lab tests.
  • The process is as simple as following the included instructions.
  • At-home kits can screen for diabetes, hormone imbalances, heart health and more.

Most people have had blood drawn at some point in their lives. Healthcare providers order blood work for all kinds of reasons, from routine checks to specific tests to screen or diagnose a condition. Getting blood drawn is a regular part of care for people with chronic health issues that require ongoing monitoring, such as diabetes.

Traditionally, most blood work is completed at a lab or doctor’s office through a venous blood draw — in other words, through a vein. A nurse or phlebotomist inserts a needle into a vein to extract the number of vials of blood required for the requested tests. It’s an old process, and it works — but it takes time, and it can be uncomfortable or even painful.

But there is an easier, more efficient way. At-home blood testing — similar to the daily fingerprick blood testing people with diabetes do to measure their blood sugar — involves a small blood draw from your fingertip or heel. 

It’s done with a small, handheld lancet and is inexpensive, fast, and as accurate as traditional lab testing. Instead of being at the mercy of appointment times and waiting rooms, you're on your schedule.

How does at home blood testing work?

At-home blood testing is simple. The tiny capillaries — branches of blood vessels — in extremities like your fingertips and heels deliver vital nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, making them perfect for taking samples.

Here’s how the at-home blood testing process typically works at imaware:

1. Order, receive and activate your at-home blood test kit.

Once you've ordered your imaware kit online, it will be delivered in five to seven business days. 

Once you receive your kit, you need to activate it by creating an imaware account; later, you’ll use this account to view your test progress and access your results in our secure patient portal.

2. Prepare for your test.

Each at-home blood test kit works differently, and each sample collection may require different steps. It’s essential to read the instructions, so you’re prepared for your at-home blood test. 

Some tests require fasting, some require taking a sample in the morning, and some need to be sent back on the same day. Get to know the requirements, so you’re ready. 

3. Collect your blood sample.

To collect your sample, you’ll prick your finger with a lancet. It's almost painless, and you'll only need a few drops of blood to get accurate lab test results from home. Scared of needles? The good news is that our lancet stays hidden until after its work is done.

Here are some tips and tricks for collecting the best sample possible:

  • Drink up: Make sure you're well hydrated before collecting your sample. Your blood is thinner when you're fully hydrated, so getting the drops of blood you need is easier. Increase your water intake the day before the test, and drink one or two glasses of water about an hour before you complete the test.
  • Heat your hands: Warm your fingers by running your hands under warm water to encourage blood flow.
  • Move your body: Vigorous movement in the five minutes before your test will also help, so get up and go for a power walk, do some jumping jacks or throw on your favorite YouTube dance video. 
  • Put your ring finger on it: The finger next to your pinky is generally less calloused than the others, making it a good choice.
  • Aim to the side of the middle: The side of your fingertip has fewer nerve endings than the exact middle, so it’s less painful, while the center of your finger will produce the most blood. So aim for somewhere around the center to the side for the best of both worlds.
  • Be gentle: Avoid squeezing your finger to get a drop of blood, which can break the blood cells and compromise the sample. If you’re not generating enough blood, try massaging from the palm up to the first knuckle of the pricked finger.

4. Drop your sample off at the courier.

Our kits come with prepaid shipping and instructions for which courier company to use. Drop off your completed home test at the nearest location on the same day you take your test. You can track your sample’s progress by logging into our online portal.

5. Receive your doctor-reviewed results in our secure dashboard.

Around five to seven business days after you drop your sample at the courier’s, your physician-reviewed results will be ready to read on our online portal.

You’ll be notified when they’re ready, and your report will come in plain English — no medical jargon, we promise.

For an idea of how this looks, download a sample report for our Home Vitamin D Test below:


What can a home blood test tell you?

At-home blood testing can answer most of the questions that traditional lab tests can. 

With just a few drops of blood, at-home blood tests can check your:

  • Cardiovascular health
  • Endocrine health
  • Immune system health
  • General health and wellness

They can also screen for many conditions, including:

  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Food and environmental allergies
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testosterone levels
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Vitamin D levels

Benefits of at-home lab testing

There are many benefits to testing at home instead of the lab, pharmacy or doctor’s office.

It’s easy

Capillary draws require less blood. Instead of taking a vial (or vials!), imaware kits only need three to five drops and are less likely to cause pain or bruising when compared with a venous draw.

Can’t stand the sight of needles? Ours is small, and it stays hidden in the lancet until after its work is done.

It’s convenient

No need to find a lab, book an appointment, factor in travel time, contend with waiting rooms or even put on pants! 

We send your at-home blood testing kit direct to your home, and we make it easy to drop off your completed kit to our shipping partner (you’ll probably want to wear pants for that part).

It’s fast

When your doctor orders a test, you’re often stuck waiting for them to read the results before you can see them. But when you order from imaware, you can review your report within a week of sending back your test.

It’s legit

Our labs are certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP). 

Drawbacks of at-home testing

At-home lab testing is fast, efficient, and inexpensive, but it has its downsides like anything else. 

If you’re dehydrated or have very calloused fingers, drawing your own sample may be more challenging than a venous blood draw. 

And because small-volume blood testing is still relatively new, there aren’t as many types of tests available right now (although the number is growing every day). 

Plus, imaware’s tests aren’t currently recommended for children.

What happens after your at-home test

Lab tests are essential to the diagnostic process, but they don’t generally diagnose conditions independently. For example, a positive celiac disease screening test needs to be followed by a gastroenterologist visit and biopsy to confirm the condition.

imaware’s results include a report you can share with your healthcare provider. If your results need follow-up attention, we’ll let you know.

Summary

From ordering your kit to understanding your results, imaware’s simple instructions will lead you through the at-home health testing process. Remember to drink lots of water and warm up your hands and body before the test, and to return your sample on the same day. You’ll receive your results within a week; if you need to follow up with a medical professional, your report will say so.

Updated on
April 26, 2022
How to Prepare for an At-Home Blood Test
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