The Online Lab Service -- How It Works and Why It Works
January 1, 2013
Written by: Victor Battles
A medical online lab service is an Internet-based intermediary which allows
individuals to order and obtain lab test results online. The concept is one of many recent developments in the
changing healthcare paradigm promoting greater involvement by patients in their health care. Because of usability
and cost savings, online lab services are becoming more popular.
The online lab service also referred to as an online laboratory service, lab
online service, laboratory online service and private lab has a client relationship with one or more large
clinical reference laboratories and directs its clients to one of the clinical reference laboratory’s
collection sites for blood drawing or other specimen collection, depending on what has been ordered.
Individual clients of the Internet-based service must first set up a private lab
account. After deciding on the desired test(s) the order is placed through that private account and a
laboratory order form is then generated showing the ordered test(s). The individual client then selects a
conveniently located test specimen collection site through the laboratory online service website and presents
to that site with the order form printed from a computer. Following specimen collection private lab results are
usually available within 24 to 72 hours and can be downloaded and saved to a computer, printed, imported
into a personal health record application, or left securely stored in the private lab account.
The main online lab services which have good Better Business Bureau ratings
utilize one or both of the two major nationwide accredited clinical reference laboratories to performed the
tests. Therefore, the accuracy of the test results is identical to that obtained if testing is ordered by a
doctor. Online laboratory services are legal in all states except New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts
and Rhode Island.
In contrast to the traditional relationship between a clinical reference
laboratory and a physician, the relationship between the laboratory and an Internet-based lab service is a less
expensive one for the clinical reference laboratory, for which reason the testing fees are significantly less
than those charged to patients when tests are ordered by a physician. Although the fees charged to the client
by the lab online service include a markup, the overall cost is generally less than if the client is billed
directly by the clinical reference laboratory.
Since clinical reference laboratories will not allow individual clients to order
tests directly, the online lab service is a convenient and cost-effective alternative to laboratory testing
ordered by a physician. It can be a temporary solution for an individual who has not yet established a
doctor/patient relationship or for a patient whose doctor visit is scheduled too far into the future from the
time of desired testing. Additionally, the private lab account through which online lab test results are
obtained provides ultimate confidentiality of test results and peace of mind in those sensitive circumstances
such as STD testing.
With 14 million more American citizens projected to obtain private health
insurance in 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act, many uninsured individuals, in order to ensure
optimal healthcare and healthcare results, should begin assembling a personal health record well before the
initial doctor/patient encounter. The use of an online laboratory service can be an important resource for
gathering information that will be useful to a future physician and aid hime or her in providing outstanding
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for
medical consultation with a qualified professional. If you are seeking legal advice or are unsure about your
medical condition you should consult an attorney and/or physician.
Victor E. Battles, M.D. is a board-certified internist with 30 + years of
patient contact. Dr. Battles has been a principal investigator in several clinical research trials and is
the founder of Proactive Health Outlet, a resource providing self-help for improving health.
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