Are At-Home Tests a Trusted Health Care Future?

Study finds seniors trust home health monitoring as much as a doctor's office lab test

Published Feb. 3, 2020

Key Findings

  • Nearly twice as many seniors trust the results of an at-home COVID-19 test than Generation Z.

  • Of the 12 types of at-home health tests included in the survey, baby boomers were more likely than Generation Z to trust the results in 11 cases and equally as likely in the other.

  • Baby boomers were at least twice as likely than Generation Z to trust at-home stool sample tests, food intolerance tests, diabetes tests, Lyme disease tests, STD/STI tests and blood tests.

  • 83% of adults believe public health will improve if more at-home health testing is implemented.

  • 62% of adults agree that the federal government should provide more funding for at-home health tests and wearable monitors. 

Study Overview

Would you trust an at-home medical test? It turns out Americans over age 65 do, more than any other age group. 

Our survey of 1,162 U.S. adults examined the level of trust among different age groups regarding at-home health tests such as cholesterol tests, stool samples and COVID-19 tests.  

The results of our survey show that the older the person, the more likely they are to trust the results of an at-home medical test just as much as a test administered in a doctor’s office

At-home health tests have been found to be remarkably accurate. One study concluded that untrained users were “able to properly perform home tests and obtain accurate results, yielding high correlations with laboratory and health professional-performed tests.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in start-up companies selling at-home medical tests, many of which have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some at-home COVID-19 tests currently on the market have been cautioned against by some experts. 

Older Adults Place More Trust in At-Home Test Results

The older the respondent, the more likely they were to believe that an at-home test was just as accurate as a test they would get in a doctor’s office for the same condition. 

For nearly all of the 12 at-home tests included in the survey, the level of trust increased with age.

  • For example, just 36% of Generation Z respondents trust the at-home version of the COVID-19 test as much as the one they would get in a doctor’s office.

  • This level of trust increased with age, with up to 45% of Millennials, 46% of Generation X and 54% of baby boomers trusting the at-home version as much as the one they would get in a doctor's office. 

At-home dental impressions and heart EKG tests were the only areas where baby boomers were not more trusting than other age groups.

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Graphic showing percentages of adults who trust various at-home tests according to their age

When asked how important FDA approval was when deciding which at-home test to buy, only 73% of respondents said it was “very important.” 

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Graphic showing percentages of adults who rely on differing recommendations for at-home health tests

Loopholes in federal regulations allow at-home medical tests to go unregistered. They do not need FDA approval for over-the-counter sale and can be developed and sold by just a single laboratory.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine highlighted some of the risks of such tests, writing, “Amidst the pandemic, the market has been flooded by companies making unsubstantiated and often fraudulent claims.” 

Adults as a whole seem trusting enough of at-home tests that only 1 in 5 respondents have compared the results with the results of a same or similar test at a doctor’s office. In the case of COVID-19 at-home tests, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends consulting a doctor if you test negative for the virus at home but display symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Graphic callout highlighting percentage of adults who confirm at-home test results with similar test at doctors office

Comfort With At-Home Testing Also Increases With Age

It’s one thing to trust the results of an at-home test; it’s another to feel comfortable performing the test.

Our survey found varying degrees of confidence and comfort in executing various at-home tests. For example, respondents were found to be more comfortable pricking their finger than collecting their own stool sample.

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Graphic showing varying levels of comfort with performing types of at-home tests

The evidence suggests one’s level of comfort with performing the tests increases with age, as does their level of trust in the results.

The graphs below show how overall comfort levels with pricking a finger and collecting a urine or stool sample increase with the respondent’s age.  

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Graphic showing how the level of comfort in conducting a finger prick test increases with age

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Graphic showing how the level of comfort in collecting a stool sample increases with age

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Graphic showing how the level of comfort in collecting a urine sample increases with age

People Don’t Trust the Federal Government With Their Personal Health Results

Survey respondents were aligned in who they trust with the results of their at-home health test results and information. 

While nearly all respondents trust their doctor with the results, far fewer trust pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies or the federal government with the results of their tests. 

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Graphic showing the percentages of people who trust various authorities with the data from their personal health test results

While only 1 in 3 people trust the government with the results of their at-home health tests, the majority of respondents believe the government should provide funding for at-home tests and wearable health monitors.

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Graphic showing the percentages of people who believe the government should pay more for at-home health testing

In all, our survey respondents displayed a considerable level of confidence in at-home health tests and the possibility of improved public health if more at-home testing and monitoring were implemented. 

Graphic callout highlighting the percentage of people who think public health would improve with more at-home health monitoring

Conclusion

While U.S. adults have somewhat mixed levels of trust in at-home health tests, there is evidence to suggest that the level of trust in these tests increases with age. And baby boomers are far more likely to trust an at-home test than Generation Z. 

U.S. adults believe public health would improve with more at-home testing and monitoring and believe the government should do more to help fund those efforts. However, people do not trust the federal government with the results of their test. 

Methodology

This study was conducted on January 22, 2021, using an audience pool gathered using Prolific, an online polling tool. The total survey included 1,162 respondents.

Participants were filtered based on completion time and failure to follow written instructions within the survey.

Data was weighted to the 2019 U.S. Census.

Margin of error: +/- 4% (95% confidence interval)

This survey relies on self-reported data.

Fair Use Statement

Of course we would love for you to share our work with others. We just ask that if you do, please grant us the proper citation with a link to this study so that we may be given credit for our efforts.

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