Responsible Delivery of Sensitive Results


The home testing market has grown due to a number of factors in the past 5 years

  1. Taking samples at home is now more widely accepted
  2. Waiting lists for state-run health systems have increased\
  3. Telemedicine is now seen as just another route to receiving care
  4. New biomarkers have been developed for capillary and saliva samples

So the direction of travel is for, almost, all biomarkers to be available for home testing one day. Whilst traditional medicine would baulk at the possibility of a patient receiving a report with a test result for a condition that is potentially life-changing, the industry is maturing and finding new ways to deliver high standards of clinical care remotely, and with less clinician intervention..

At Hurdle we are experienced in supporting partners to deliver testing in a safe and responsible manner, so below we have listed some of the considerations when delivering sensitive tests, such as those used in cancer screening, remotely.

Basic education on the biomarker

A description of the biomarker(s) and what a normal or abnormal result could mean.

The limitations of the test

Ensure that the patient is aware of what the test can and cannot do. Where a diagnosis of prostate cancer cannot be ruled in or out by a PSA test, ensure the patient knows this before taking the tests.

How to ensure accurate testing

Advising a patient taking a FIT stool test that the test will not be valid if they are menstruating will help reduce the number of false positives.

How to prepare for the test

A patient taking a PSA test will need to know to wait two weeks after a digital rectal exam before taking the test.

What to expect of the service

Inform the patient upfront whether or not a clinician will see their results, or if they will have an appointment to discuss the results.

What to expect of the report

If the test is for a condition that may be used for occupational health reasons, the patient will need to be informed if the test report will be valid for this purpose (ie ID-verified).

What a result really means

A positive FIT test doesn’t mean that the patient has bowel cancer, it means that they have microscopic blood in their stool, which can have a number of causes. Plainly explaining the real significance of a result treats the patient like an adult and will reduce anxiety.

Symptoms need investigating

Where patients have symptoms, they must be advised to seek a clinician review, even if the test is negative.

Advice on test choice

Self-pay tests are usually chosen by a patient, not a clinician, so it is important to make them aware of other tests that may be more suitable for them. Don’t assume that the patient has chosen the right test.

Red flags

Well-intentioned patients may try circumventing healthcare professionals by purchasing tests directly, so they should be warned about red flags which would necessitate an urgent clinician review.

Actionable advice

Make your results copy actionable. Ensure that the patient knows what to do with their result, whether it’s to order another test, see their GP, or repeat the test in a set period of time.

Plain English

Remember that the average reading age of adults in the UK is 9 years old, whereas the people who write medical copy have at least a university education. Ensure patients can understand the key messages of any pretest counselling or results copy.

Ticking a box doesn’t mean it has been read

Whilst pretest counselling may have attempted to educate the patient, they may not have read or understood the copy. So repeating important information in the results copy is important.

And finally… test it

At Hurdle we run user insight programmes remotely, allowing us to gain feedback on the whole process from test request to test result. In fact it is patient feedback that has shown us the value of sensitively delivered results.

After all the time spent ensuring tests are delivered accurately, confidentially and on time, what the patient goes away with is a well written report that enables them to take appropriate action based on health insights.