Experts predict the future of at-home diagnostics at CES 2023

How quickly do we want to know if we've health issues? The present and future of at-home testing and diagnostics.
Paul Ratner
Covid test
Covid test kit at home.

Pixabay 

In a process that’s been greatly accelerated by the pandemic, people want to be able to manage their own health and expect medical information faster.

Being able to accurately monitor key health indicators or diagnose an ailment quickly, while in the privacy and comfort of your home could be revolutionary, leading to increased prevention and early treatment.

At Consumer Electronics Show - CES 2023, a conversation on “The Future of At-Home Testing and Diagnosis” addressed this very topic. 

The discussion was led by Cara Santa Maria, a science communicator, who hosts the Talk Nerdy Podcast. The panelists included Dr. Mary Rodgers, a Principal Scientist with Abbott Diagnostics. Introduced as the “Chief Virus Hunter,” she manages the Global Surveillance Program for Abbott. 

The other speakers were Dr. Bruce McCabe, a global futurist who embeds with different laboratories around the world to better understand the innovations that will be shaping our future, and Dr. Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist on Georgetown faculty, who spoke from the mental health perspective.

The current state of diagnostics

Dr. Rodgers pointed out that the COVID pandemic has changed our relationship with at-home testing in dramatic ways. Rapid Covid tests have become an unfortunate necessity, with consumers now looking to have tools available to be able to gauge the status of their health without having to go to the doctor. 

Dr. Bonior agreed that the pandemic was a game-changer in people’s attitudes towards diagnostic testing, especially due to the quick Covid tests.

“People now have the expectation that this information is available in their homes. That they can test and gain insight right away in the privacy of their homes in order to be empowered to make the decisions that they need to make to keep their families safe and to keep themselves safe and to know how to act in the community to keep their neighbors safe.” 

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She believes that consumers are now ready to be able to test for any number of new illnesses at home — from infectious diseases to chronic illnesses. And scientists are working on meeting that demand. From a psychological perspective, explained Bonior, the quickness of at-home tests also provides an answer to anxiety-breeding uncertainty, empowering people through information. 

The future of testing 

Bruce McCabe shared that he believes diagnostics is one of the most exciting areas of health care right now. He’s particularly bullish on CRISPR-based diagnostics as well as more sensitive, customizable tests that would look at four or five conditions at a time. He also pointed to AI as “intensely exciting,” predicting that current diagnostic chatbots will be improved by a factor of a thousand, being able to precisely analyze your answers to its questions. These AI healthcare “co-pilots” would be aided by all your medical records, all your conversations, learning from all healthcare manuals, and “asking you questions to fill in its own gaps.” 

He also highlighted “unobtrusive diagnostics” as a very promising area. It would be very noninvasive, just a part of our home, gathering information through thermal cameras, Wi-Fi, or even just from the voices it hears.

Dr. McCabe believes artificial intelligence, utilizing machine learning, that is listening to the changes in the patterns of our speech would be able to diagnose neurodegenerative diseases, for example, and a range of others. 

The promise of at-home diagnostics 

Bruce McCabe thinks the proliferation of at-home diagnostic tests connected people even more stronger to the healthcare system, prompting them to seek help sooner. 

Bonior added that at-home tests also helped marginalized or fearful people who wouldn’t normally test for certain conditions as they’d be afraid to go to the doctor. At-home testing provides a comfort level that allows them to monitor their health better.

Dr. Rogers concluded by saying the future of at-home testing is bright as it brings the promise that “instead of going to healthcare, healthcare can come to you.”