This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on 17 February 2019.

Home testing offers several benefits including convenience and privacy, but it is important to understand that home tests may not be as accurate as hospital tests, and depend on you following the instructions provided very carefully.

In hospitals the staff who perform tests must undergo training in the testing procedure, and any machine used needs to be maintained and it’s quality carefully checked. Home tests can be used to screen for, diagnose or monitor disease. Many home tests are available over the counter (OTC) in local supermarkets or pharmacies or directly from manufacturers by Internet, phone, or mail order.

Examples of these include:

  • cholesterol, for assessing risk of heart disease;
  • glucose, for monitoring diabetes;
  • INR, to monitor the effects of warfarin therapy;
  • drugs to test for the presence of illegal drugs and drugs of abuse;
  • hCG, to screen for pregnancy;
  • faecal occult blood, to screen for bowel cancer; and
  • luteinising hormone (LH), to predict when a woman produces an egg (ovulation)

Most home tests, like those used for pregnancy testing, produce immediate results. Others tests are sold as collection devices for you use the device to collect a specimen (for example, urine or faeces) and then mail the device containing the sample to the laboratory for measurement. You must follow the instructions provided very carefully to avoid incorrect results. Lots of things can affect the result of a test, for example how the sample is collected, the time of day of collection, how accurately you time the test, or the impact of drugs and tablets you may be taking.

Although home tests are convenient, you may still need to have tests done by your GP or in hospital to make a diagnosis, or to monitor a condition.

In most situations where you are concerned about your health you would be best advised to make an appointment with your GP rather than do a home test. For instance, the faecal occult blood home test might falsely reassure you that you do not have a bowel cancer, where as your GP might decide that your symptoms need to be investigated more thoroughly using colonoscopy which is the appropriate test if you have symptoms of bowel cancer.

Accordion Title
About Home Testing
  • Quick Guide

    Quick Guide

    Home testing offers a way for you to test for medical conditions in the privacy of your own home and to monitor chronic health conditions. If you use home tests, however, protect yourself against the possibility of unapproved tests, false results, and your own lack of training by following this guidance.

    Make sure that the test you are purchasing bears a CE mark. The European Union and the UK regulatory authorities require manufacturers to meet stringent controls.

    Check the expiration date. Do not buy tests if they have expired. The chemicals in the test may have lost their effectiveness, and the results may not be valid.

    Follow the package directions on where and how to store the test. Don't leave temperature-sensitive tests in conditions that don't meet storage requirements.

    Note and follow any special precautions before performing the test. For example, check to see when the test is to be performed (morning, evening), or under what conditions (fasting, no physical exertion, etc.).

    Perform the test EXACTLY as instructed. If you have questions or are at all unsure about how to use the test, consider talking to your doctor.

    Make sure you understand the meaning of the test results, and what to do about them. If you do not, talk to your doctor.

    Consult the following agencies for additional information. These are general links that will require additional searching for relevant information.

    Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
             UK agency with website containing information on home tests (in vitro diagnostics).
    National Library for Health
             Searchable database of medical information.
    Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH)
            USA medical device approvals. Daily updates available. Searchable.