By Sylvia Christensen, Managing Editor Dark Daily

No laboratory company has pursued the opportunities in direct access testing (DAT) more diligently than Quest Diagnostics Incorporated. Beginning in early 2001, Quest Diagnostics opened six retail locations in strip shopping malls throughout five Midwestern states to support its QuesTest direct access testing initiative.

The QuesTest program-and these retail DAT outlets-were highly chronicled as the beginning of a new era in healthcare! Without the need to see a physician, consumers could use the QuesTest program to order their own laboratory tests, have their blood drawn, and receive secure results online, or by mail. Of course, there were legislative hurdles in many states, so DAT opportunities were limited to just a handful of states.

Now, after five years of effort, Quest Diagnostics has quietly shuttered QuesTest. It quietly posted a notice on the QuesTest Web site that consumers could no longer order tests after March 31, 2006.

Certainly a lack of consumer demand for DAT was the primary reason why Quest Diagnostics backed out of the direct access testing project. Apparently the hard-core group of consumers motivated to order and pay for their own laboratory tests was limited. Moreover, the trend toward consumer empowerment in healthcare was not serving to enlarge the pool of consumers interested in bypassing their physician to order their own tests.

Dark Daily knows of only one company that’s made a go of direct access testing. That’s HealthCheckUSA, based in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1987, it has operated a direct access testing program in many Texas cities, as well as most of the 50 states. It was profiled in The Dark Report in the May 27, 2003 issue (http://www.darkreport.com).

Quest Diagnostics Incorporated did the right thing in putting QuesTest into the marketplace. It let the marketplace demonstrate what level of consumer demand existed for DAT services. After five year of experiments, that included a pilot DAT collaboration with CVS Pharmacies, Quest Diagnostics’ decision to exit DAT can be interpreted as a sign that there is not enough consumer interest in DAT to make it a financially solvent service for most clinical laboratories. Specialty companies, like HealthCheckUSA, may be able to develop a market niche profitable enough to sustain a business over several years.



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