Home Blood Testing Services with Medichecks: Tiny Reviews!
I recently had a great experience with a company called Medichecks, so I want to devote this month’s blog to telling you all about them in case you’d like to use them too!
Regular readers will know that I sometimes recommend people to get their hormone, thyroid hormone and iron levels measured. In fact, I have written a dedicated blog post in the past about getting reproductive and adrenal hormones comprehensively checked via salivary hormone testing and DUTCH (dried urine) testing. I’ve also talked about getting thyroid hormones thoroughly checked using private blood tests via Thyroid UK, although I don’t think I’ve done a complete blog post about this. While these sorts of tests represent the gold standard in diagnostics, they are expensive and so are not within everyone’s reach. They can also be difficult to interpret without the guidance of a qualified practitioner.
In the UK, the best way to get basic blood tests done in the first instance is to go to your GP, where you will hopefully be able to get what you need on the NHS. However, not all GPs are amenable to providing access to the tests you might want. Some are great and will let you have anything you ask for, but others will veto a request if they don’t think you are presenting with the ‘right’ symptoms. The range of blood tests available on the NHS without consultant intervention is also quite limited – for example, you might be able to check ferritin, but not total iron binding capacity; you might be able to check cortisol, but not DHEA. Additionally, the coronavirus has made it difficult for many people to get appointments with their GPs or to access blood clinics. My own GP practice is very good, but when my doctor last authorised some blood tests for me, I couldn’t actually get an appointment with the local phlebotomy department to book the blood draw! I spent days phoning up trying to get through (pre-pandemic you used to be able to just turn up, take a ticket and wait for your turn), but in the end I had to pay a nurse to come to the house to take the blood!
Medichecks is a company that offers private, diagnostic testing at reasonable prices. It fills a gap in the market between basic NHS tests and highly specialised gold-standard tests. I have known about them for years, but my first time using them was only a few months ago. I needed to have a single biomarker measured that is not available on the NHS and I discovered that Medichecks offered this type of blood test. I’ve since used them a second time and I have been very impressed with them on both occasions, so I’m happy to be writing about them this month!
You can order tests directly from Medichecks without needing referral from a doctor. I like that, because it means you can take charge of monitoring whatever biomarkers you’re interested in without needing anyone else’s cooperation. However, you won’t be on your own – you can elect to have a free doctor’s report with your results, which means everything will be explained for you, if applicable. If you’re having a simple test and the result is normal, there won’t be a lot for the doctor to say besides, “Everything looks good!” However, if something is out of normal range, your report will explain what that means, why it might be happening, and will include recommendations about what to do next. That’s great, because it means you don’t have to be medically minded, nor pay a private practitioner, to understand your results.
When you order a blood test from Medichecks, there are usually four ways you can do it. The first is to arrange your own blood collection, which might be handy if you have a doctor or nurse in the family. If you don’t, for many of the tests, you can choose to have a finger-prick test kit sent to you. In this case, you will carry out the test yourself by pricking your finger and collecting blood. This is a convenient option, but it’s not one I like for a few reasons: firstly, I’m a bit of a baby and I find the whole thing quite painful and intimidating; secondly, I often find it difficult to actually get the blood drips where they need to go; and thirdly, I don’t always bleed that well. I can spend ages psyching myself up to stab myself and then when I’ve done it, I don’t get enough blood anyway. If you’re quite brave and are confident you’ll be able to get enough blood out then finger-prick tests are the ultimate in convenience and cost effectiveness, but they’re not my favourite option!
If you don’t like the idea of a DIY blood test, you can elect to go into a Medichecks partner clinic and get the blood taken there. If you live near one of the partner clinics, this might be the option for you. When I type in my postcode, I am offered two branches of Superdrug and a local hospital as possible locations and it is worth noting that I don’t live particularly close to any major cities. Perhaps unfairly, I tend to be reluctant to visit partner clinics after I had a bad experience trying to use another diagnostic company’s partner clinic in the past. I forget the full story now, but the upshot was that the test kit had to be returned for a refund because the partner clinic was difficult to get in touch with and didn’t fill me with confidence that the left hand knew what the right was doing. I tried other local hospitals and even veterinarians, but none of them had the necessary technology to process that specialised type of blood test for me. I’m sure Medichecks’ partner clinics will be lovely, but I’m pretty lazy, so it was the fourth option that appealed to me!
Option four is that you can pay to have a nurse visit you at home and take the blood for you. This was the option I chose! I was a little apprehensive the first time about how it would work, but it was so easy! After purchasing my test kit, I got an email and a text message advising me that someone would be in touch within 24 hours to arrange a blood draw. That is exactly what happened and the next day, I was able to book my blood collection at a time that suited me. An hour before the appointment, I applied my numbing cream and then the nurse used a paediatric needle to take the blood, which he said he uses with all his patients to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. I think he’s slightly offended that I insist on using numbing cream, but I only plucked up the courage to start having blood tests a few years ago and I’m not taking any risks!
The nurse was very nice – he told me that he does lots of work for Medichecks, so he was familiar with the test kits and how to fill out the paperwork properly. He indulges me by sticking a plaster over the needle site when he’s done so that I don’t have to look at it and he also boxes up the blood for me if I want so that I don’t have to look at that either. I have used him for both set of Medichecks tests that I have had done and he also helped me out with an NHS blood test when my local phlebotomy clinic was unavailable.
Whichever option you choose for your blood collection, a Medichecks test kit will be posted to you. On both occasions mine have arrived quite quickly – within two working days, I think. Postage is free, which is nice. The first time I used the company, I was just having a single test done to check a single biomarker. The second time, I was having two separate tests done – the Iron Home Blood Test, which includes total iron binding capacity and an inflammation biomarker among others, and the Advanced Female Hormone Blood Test, which incorporates thyroid hormones and thyroid antibodies as well as sex hormones. Rather than send two kits for two tubes of blood, they sent just one kit and included paperwork to let the laboratory know that they were to use it to carry out two tests. That was good, because obviously it meant the blood collection was over more quickly!
Some blood tests must be carried out in a morning, after a fast, or without having taken certain medications or supplements beforehand. Instructions for each test are given on each individual test page, so do be sure to read those BEFORE purchasing a test and BEFORE booking a blood collection! I can see a few reviews where customers are moaning that they wasted their money by not getting their test done at the right time. In my opinion this is hardly Medichecks’ fault, but do be sure to check before you buy!
When you have collected your blood, you then seal everything back in the box provided, put it all into the envelope provided and pop it in a post box. You don’t even need to take it to a Post Office! The return envelope has tracking details on it, so it’s wise to make a note of that, but otherwise there is nothing for you to do! I’ve done diagnostic tests in the past where the accompanying paperwork has been extensive and confusing and where the packaging has been stressful. Medichecks makes things really easy! You get an email to let you know when your test kit has been safely received back at the lab and then you get another email when your results are ready.
For some tests, you might have to fill out a health and lifestyle questionnaire online while you are waiting for your results. This is easy to do – you simply receive an email with a link and instructions. I filled mine out for my first test, so for my iron test I didn’t have to complete it again. However, I was asked to provide some additional information for my Female Hormone test, which only took about five minutes and was quite fun to do. The information you provide helps the doctor to better understand your results and provide you with a more thorough report.
When your results are ready, you get an email and you log on and can view them. For each biomarker, you get told your reading, what the normal range is, what the biomarker in question does, why it might be high/low and what it means for health if it is high/low. A simple red and green colour code is used to enable you to tell at a glance which biomarkers were normal and which were too high or low. The onscreen results are very accessible and easy to understand and you can open a print friendly version if you want to print a copy for your records. The print friendly version is not as nice to look at and looks more like the blood test results you’d get from the GP. Incidentally, if you get blood tests on the NHS, you are well within your rights to ask to see a printout of them. Lots of people complain that the GP just says ‘normal’ and won’t give them a reading. If that happens to you, just insist on a printout if you want to see them for yourself! I have all mine printed out and filed!
As previously discussed, you will get a doctor’s report with your test results if you selected to have one and if it is applicable. I got a really nice one with my Advanced Female Hormone Blood Test and what I really appreciated was that the doctor opened the report by putting my mind at rest about a particular concern I had. That was so nice of him, because it meant I could concentrate for the rest of the report knowing that my main concern had been clearly addressed at the top! His tone was generally friendly, comforting and helpful, which was lovely. For all three of the tests I have had done with Medichecks, my results have been ready within four working days of them receiving the sample.
Medichecks do stress that they are not intended to diagnose any conditions, nor act as a substitute for visiting your doctor. However, their range of tests is incredibly useful for working with your healthcare provider or for monitoring your biomarkers for your own interest. Personally I feel they represent an excellent option when: a) your doctor is blocking your access to blood tests that you would like; b) you suspect an issue like hypothyroid or hormone imbalance, but can’t afford gold standard diagnostic testing; c) you are considering gold standard diagnostic testing, but want a cheaper preliminary test done first to guide your decision.
As well as hormone and thyroid hormone tests, Medichecks also offers testing for a range of sexually transmitted diseases, which might represent a discreet option for those who are concerned about sexual health. They offer both male and female fertility tests, which could offer a similarly discreet option prior to involving a GP or visiting an expensive fertility clinic. Those interested in enhancing their athletic prowess might be keen to try the range of sports performance tests on offer, while the allergic types among you might like to take a histamine test or an allergy test! There are tests for vitamin levels; tests for liver and kidney function; tests for cholesterol and cardiovascular health; stress tests; energy tests; and gut health tests. There are tests that everyone has heard of and tests that hardly anyone has heard of. There are tests for £40 and tests for £400. There are even coronavirus antibody tests! In fact there are over 250 different tests, so I can’t possibly tell you about all of them! It is worth noting that while most of the Medichecks range relies on blood testing, some of the tests are carried out using saliva samples or stool samples. These too are conducted at home and are posted back to the lab.
Before writing this post, I contacted Medichecks to ask if they would be happy for me to do so. Their marketing department was incredibly easy to get hold of (the phone was answered within a few rings) and the lady I spoke to was very nice. I know that doesn’t impact on customers, but it was just one more aspect of Medichecks that I was impressed with. I have reached out to various charities and health organisations in the past to ask if they’d be happy to be the subject of a Tiny’s Blog post and they are not always as receptive as you’d imagine. Sometimes they make me feel like they’d be doing me a favour by allowing it, never mind the hours I pour into each blog and the free publicity it generate for companies! The lady at Medichecks was enthusiastic, helpful and efficient, so I wanted to make a point of mentioning that!
Another thing I did before writing this blog post was to phone the customer end of Medichecks to see what that was like. Again, the phone was answered promptly, I spoke to a real human with no fuss, and she was very informative. I am sure that customers who need advice choosing a test, or who are not very internet savvy will get all the help they need if they telephone the main Medichecks number. The website is quite easy to navigate and the checkout is easy to use, so most people should not have any issues making their purchase online.
In short, I highly recommend Medichecks and I am sure I will be using them again in the future! If you feel you would benefit from investigating some biomarkers of your own (and I always recommend hormones, thyroid hormones and iron levels for interstitial cystitis and PGAD), I hope you will consider using them too!
Wishing you the best of health,