A wide range of affordable lab tests, X-rays and ECGs right at home

Representative image. Photo: Shutterstock
You've got to get some blood tests done on an urgent basis, but have neither the time nor the bandwidth to make it all the way to the nearest hospital or laboratory. So you simply pick up the phone and ask for this service to be delivered to your doorstep, just as you would with something as simple as groceries. All you need to do is simply make a voice call or place a request on the service provider's app. The icing on the cake is that it doesn't cost you a bomb to get the phlebotomist home -- in fact, often times it is cheaper to have the lab guy visit you to draw the samples, than to submit it at a collection centre (See table). 

Where the market lies 

You can order your blood test from a range of diagnostic labs such as Dr Lal Pathlabs, 1 MG, SRL, Metropolis, Thyrocare, Medall. Many of these labs say there is a great demand across cities for the blood sugar test, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), lipid profile, complete blood count (CBC), kidney profile and routine urine analysis.

Says Ankur Gigras, Vice-President, 1mg, “Two types of customers use our services, One is the chronically ill patient who needs frequent periodical tests. The other is the proactive customer who opts for preventive tests. Almost half of such orders come for the age group of 21-40 years age group, with men and women in more or less equal numbers.”

Home services are typically ordered for paediatric patients, and the elderly and the infirm, and by young professionals on-the-run who simply want convenience of getting themselves tested from any place they want, says Ameera Shah, Promoter & MD of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. She adds that certain tests such as the one for swine flu, and time-bound diagnoses like cortisol, filaria antigen and tacrolimus tests are frequently ordered tests from home. 

The home health care market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 per cent to reach $6.2 billion by 2020. Diagnostics currently has a large share of the home health care pie, but it may may not always be a substitute for a hospital set up, says Rashi Agarwal, Director, Praxis Healthcare Pvt Ltd. It may reduce the average length of stay in a hospital or reduce admissions, but there are a large number of diagnostics that cannot be carried out at home due to restrictions imposed by medical laws. Home diagnostics tends to supplement the existing ecosystem and works in synergy with the hospitals and the organised healthcare set-ups. It is particularly useful during epidemics or a sudden outbreak of diseases such as the dengue that hit Delhi in 2015.

What's on offer

Apart from collecting blood and other pathological samples from home, some players also bring x-rays, ultrasound and ECG to your doorstep. Portea is one such, providing 360-degree holistic home healthcare solutions. With advancement in medical sciences, life expectancy is on the rise globally, says Meena Ganesh, MD & CEO, Portea Medical, “However, although people are living longer, they are also prone to health issues and chronic diseases, and many require constant care at home. This is an area primarily overlooked by the conventional healthcare system in India, which is focused on critical care." 

Ganesh says it is this area that Portea has been targeting. Her outfit, in fact, goes far beyond diagnostics to offer care for chronic diseases like asthma, cardiac problems, diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders, besides offering palliative care and post-trauma, among a host of other services.

Home diagnostics does not demand any special requirements from the patient in terms of infrastructure or equipment, apart from basic things like clean bed/linen, loose cotton clothing, prescription medicines and medical records, Ganesh adds. However, it is advisable to have a member of the family or a friend, who can furnish past medical records and other information while the test or procedure is being conducted.

Steer clear of unrecognised centres

The growing demand for home diagnostics has spawned a large number of organised and unorganised players. The consumer should be wary of unrecognised centres and must go for one with lab accreditation and trained professionals. A Goldman Sachs report released in May 2019, entitled India Healthcare: Diagnostics and Clinical Labs, says there are some 100,000 diagnostic labs in India, of which only 1,076 are NABL-accredited. The phlebotomist who comes home to collect your blood, must send the sample in a specially-designed 'cold box' to the designated processing centre. Ameera Shah of Metropolis, which has been offering lab-at-home services for over 35 years and services 210 cities, points out that it is important that a cold chain be maintained to ensure integrity of the sample and accuracy in report. “Many companies offering home services do not maintain quality parameters, which could lead to inaccuracies in the report,” she says.

There have also been complaints about untrained technicians. Sonali, a PR professional whose mother needed post-operative care and regular blood sugar monitoring, was at the receiving end of some extremely sub-standard nursing care from a local clinic. "Many nurses would not be able to tap the vein, and would end up pricking my mom five or six times, causing her immense pain and blood loss," says Sonali. 

Most nurses in unorganised or ill-equipped centres are freshers, who change jobs every 5-6 months because of the dismal pay they get. Many have been known not to be punctual and in Sonali's case, would land up as late as 4 p.m. instead of 11 a.m.

Bengaluru-based Iwin DMello had an experience similar to Sonali's when the technician a local lab sent to her place to take blood samples of her fever-struck son could not find the vein. “For children in the 7-10 year age bracket, a bad experience with blood sample collection will stay with them for years to come,” says DMello.

Some attendants constantly demand food and perks from the patient. Says 65-year-old Asha Kumar, who suffers  from Parkinson's disease, “I pay my attendant Rs 700 a day but she just isn't punctual and expects food every day. Where is the convenience if I am all the time bothered about serving her?”

Often smaller clinics and local hospitals end up supplying care giver who charge less, but are poorly trained and lack professionalism. Be discreet in choosing the service provider and go for one with a good reputation and trained staff, even if you have to pay a bit more, so you don't have to worry about hygiene, sample collection and accuracy of the report.

Health care service
Typical price at hospital/
collection centre (Rs)
Cost at home (Rs)
Pathological tests*    
Blood Sugar Test (RBS) 150 70
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone 450 260
Lipid Profile 950 400
Complete Blood Count 430 200
Kidney Function  950 400
Routine Urine Analysis 125 75
Other tests    
X-ray (Chest PA view) 250 2,000
ECG 300 600
Elder care    
Physiotherapy Variable: starting at Rs 1,000 per session  700 per session
Nursing 400-800 1,600 (12 hours) 2,800 (24 hours)
Doctor consultation  550-1,000 1,200 per visit
* Rs 99 collection charges are applicable for a home visit

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