Breaking the Shackles

Just got off a phone conversation with a friend. She was seeking my advice about her online consultation with the doctor and a series of blood tests to check the levels of cortisol, progesterone, estrogen, FSH, LH, testosterone, etc., that were prescribed. Her confusion…? Getting down to the brass tacks,

  • Which is the most reliable test center?
  • How much blood would be drawn for the tests? 
  • Would it be painful?
  • How long will she have to wait for the test reports?
  • How much would it cost her?
  • Will these tests be a routine for her?

I sensed the process was only adding to her anxiety and strain. She inquired as to why there isn’t a quick fix for instant results, not just for her but a pervading alternative, like a glucometer, or a home pregnancy test kit?

One of the tests that she was recommended was for stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, has a diurnal rhythm, which means its levels varies throughout the day, which also means collecting a sample every few hours! She hates being pricked, and so do a lot of other people. 

This conversation also triggered the thought of how significant reliable self-test kits would be. Under-diagnosis and under-ascertainment of stress, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), etc., is the reason behind low incidence reports in both rural and urban areas. There are oft-repeated explanations for being reticent about health issues: worried about being judged, worried about being taken for a ride, and worried about financial liabilities.

Rapid tests, a term popularized with the advent of covid, are small, hand-held, rectangular cassettes holding a paper strip containing dried reagents that can be activated with the addition of saliva. The redeeming feature is that these color-based results can be processed using a mobile phone! An affordable, non-invasive, easy-to-use, quick, quantitative and outreach test kit.

These can be the answer to the dilemma most people go through and a precursor to innovative diagnostic tools being made available to the public at large.

The author is a Senior Research Scientist at CortiqaHealth, a company dedicated to making healthcare accessible, affordable and easy-to-use.