BACKGROUND. Clinical laboratory tests are now being prescribed and made directly available to consumers through retail outlets in the USA. Concerns with these test have been raised regarding the uncertainty of testing methods used in these venues and a lack of open, scientific validation of the technical accuracy and clinical equivalency of results obtained through these services.
METHODS. We conducted a cohort study of 60 healthy adults to compare the uncertainty and accuracy in 22 common clinical lab tests between one company offering blood tests obtained from finger prick (Theranos) and 2 major clinical testing services that require standard venipuncture draws (Quest and LabCorp). Samples were collected in Phoenix, Arizona, at an ambulatory clinic and at retail outlets with point-of-care services.
RESULTS. Theranos flagged tests outside their normal range 1.6× more often than other testing services (P < 0.0001). Of the 22 lab measurements evaluated, 15 (68%) showed significant interservice variability (P < 0.002). We found nonequivalent lipid panel test results between Theranos and other clinical services. Variability in testing services, sample collection times, and subjects markedly influenced lab results.
CONCLUSION. While laboratory practice standards exist to control this variability, the disparities between testing services we observed could potentially alter clinical interpretation and health care utilization. Greater transparency and evaluation of testing technologies would increase their utility in personalized health management.
FUNDING. This work was supported by the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, a gift from the Harris Family Charitable Foundation (to J.T. Dudley), and grants from the NIH (R01 DK098242 and U54 CA189201, to J.T. Dudley, and R01 AG046170 and U01 AI111598, to E.E. Schadt).
Brian A. Kidd, Gabriel Hoffman, Noah Zimmerman, Li Li, Joseph W. Morgan, Patricia K. Glowe, Gregory J. Botwin, Samir Parekh, Nikolina Babic, Matthew W. Doust, Gregory B. Stock, Eric E. Schadt, Joel T. Dudley
(A) STARD flow diagram of the cohort study. A total of 60 patients were enrolled and completed the study. For each patient, 4 separate blood draws were collected within a 6.5-hour window in a single day (mean ±SD, 3 ± 1 hour). Collections at t1 and t4 were split into 6 tubes to evaluate technical variability from 2 major clinical testing services (Lab 1, LabCorp; Lab 2, Quest Diagnostics). Theranos samples were collected from 2 separate retail locations at t2 and t3. (B) Panel of histograms showing the time between blood collections for the (top) first set of finger prick and venipuncture draws (t2–t1), (middle) Theranos samples (t3–t2), and (bottom) overall study (t4–t1).