Josh Lowensohn writing for The Verge:
“There are over 140 million doctor visits for cold and flu symptoms every year in the US. In more than 31 million of those visits, the patient has flu,” [Cue co-founder, Ayub Khattak] says. “We want to enable people to get this health information in minutes and, if flu is detected, communicate their result to their doctor who can order a prescription to the local pharmacy.”
This sentiment—order a lab test and, if positive, give Drug X—seems to be the prevailing belief in Silicon Valley about how medicine is practiced . Unfortunately, it just isn’t that straightforward, even for something apparently simple like the flu.
The biggest concern with influenza is secondary bacterial infection causing pneumonia. These infections are what made the 1918 influenza pandemic so deadly. A rapid flu test tells you absolutely nothing about such secondary infection.
There is a reason why doctors ask a lot of questions and examine patients. Seemingly innocuous questions like, ‘Have you been feeling short of breath going up stairs,’ can yield lots of information. When it seems like your doctor is making pleasant small-talk, half the time they are gaining valuable information.
Don’t expect to plop down $199 for this box, test your family for flu, and have your doctor call in a prescription for Tamiflu. Coupling a lab-in-a-box system with an app to ask additional questions may prove to be useful for many conditions. However, the most likely scenario—you complete an in-home test, answer lots of question on the app, and still find yourself going to the doctor’s office for a more complete exam.
To be fair, this seems to be a common belief among the general public as well. ↩