There are numerous reasons why you may want to get a test done without a doctor's order. Fortunately, this is an option for most people in the US**. But first, a standard disclaimer - you should always review your test results with a licensed and qualified healthcare professional. Do not attempt to self-diagnose. You should also keep in mind that lab values can vary significantly depending on a number of factors such as hydration status, the amount of time since you last ate and the amount of strenuous exercise you've done recently.
Here are some common reasons for testing "directly":
- To establish a baseline before adopting a new diet, exercise routine or before taking new prescription medications.
- To measure common biomarkers you wish to monitor and change through diet, exercise or supplementation, such as vitamin D and cholesterol levels.
- To save money. Depending on your insurance coverage (or lack thereof), the cost savings can be significant.
- To do tests impractical to do in a doctor's office. For example, a full hormone panel with diurnal cortisol would typically require multiple blood draws in a single day. A more convenient (and more accurate test) can be replicated at home with 4 saliva samples taken throughout the day.
- When some level of anonymity is desired, such as with STD testing.
- Convenience. Once you arrive at a draw location, you're usually done and out the door within 10 to 30 minutes.
The procedure for getting a blood test directly from a lab is simple.
- You order a test online.
- You print out a requisition form that shows you've prepaid for the test.
- You bring the requisition form to a draw location (typically LabCorp).
- A lab technician draws your blood and the results are emailed to you.
Here are the companies I've ordered tests from in the past. I have no affiliation with any of them.
Life Extension Foundation
A limited selection of tests, but what they do have, they're often the cheapest. Previously a membership was required for the discounted pricing but this is no longer the case as they've recently done away with the paid membership program. Their chemistry + CBC + lipids panel is the best baseline test I've found for the price ($35).
Often (but not always) the cheapest of all the providers listed here. The best savings come with their comprehensive panels such as this one.
Often a little more expensive than Health Check USA but they do offer a wider selection of tests.
More affordable with recent price adjustments. The standard baseline package ($150) provides an excellent overall picture of your health. Without a doubt the most user friendly interface for viewing and interpreting test results. They also provide a (paid) option to speak with a doctor or nutritionist to discuss your results. Each call is recorded and downloadable as an MP3.
Any Lab Test Now
A regional brick and mortar testing facility. The most expensive of all the providers but they do offer some very useful tests that the other providers do not (such as the SpectraCell micronutrient test popularized by "The 4-Hour Body").
Specializes in affordable at-home hormone testing using saliva samples.
** Unfortunately, laws in MA, MD, ND, SD, VT, NJ, NY and RI prohibit or restrict testing without a doctor's order.