Lab testing provides an evaluatory roadmap for doctors to understand health and body function. Results are critical in the diagnostic process, helping doctors monitor the efficacy of therapeutic interventions, track the course of the disease, and motivate patients to participate actively in their health journeys.
Conventional testing certainly plays a significant role in all types of medicine. However, it's an all-too-common story that patients seek medical care feeling sick and are sent home without solutions because all their labs are "normal."
Necessary in disease prevention and health optimization, specialty testing can provide a more comprehensive analysis of the interplay of body systems and biochemistry leading to health and dis-ease. Doing so widens the scope in which medical providers can offer solutions.
What is Specialty Lab Testing?
Specialty, or functional, lab testing is a collective of labs dedicated to providing diagnostics for a particular subset of human health. Specialty lab testing includes taking blood, stool, urinary, salivary, or hair samples to analyze biomarkers that are not routinely measured in a conventional lab to provide an in-depth perspective into an individual's health status. The results permit a better perception of the quantity and functionality of the particular biomarkers of interest.
Health categories of interest in functional lab testing include:
- Cardiovascular and metabolic health
- Environmental/Toxic exposure
- Food sensitivity and allergy testing
- Genetic testing
- Gut function analysis
- Hormone testing
- Nutritional assessment
The most popular tests ordered for patients through the Rupa Health portal include the following:
- Comprehensive stool testing
- Food sensitivity testing
- Hormone panels
- Organic acid and micronutrient testing
- SIBO breath testing
Functional medicine providers recognize the difference between normal, optimal, and pathologic health states. Specialty testing is an essential tool to assist practitioners in this differentiation.
What are Optimal Lab Values?
All this is not to say standard lab markers are unimportant because they are, and are routinely included in specialty lab panels. However, functional doctors are trained to interpret these results through a more critical lens, differentiating between "normal" from "optimal."
Normal lab values and reference ranges are determined by taking the average of a particular population. Often, normal ranges are created using populations with many unhealthy individuals, so the normal values printed on a lab report don't reflect a healthy population. Normal ranges also only consider range values associated with disease risk and mortality once enough evidence accumulates to change them. So while normal ranges can detect the presence of disease (when the result is flagged as frankly high or low), they don't provide much benefit for people invested in taking control of their health and preventing disease.
Optimal reference ranges narrow the scale to reflect ideal health and function rather than just the absence of a pathologic disease. More limited reference ranges help practitioners to leave behind the black-and-white model of lab interpretation (i.e., normal vs. abnormal) to classify health on a spectrum. This allows for identifying, tracking, and reversing biochemical imbalances before they evolve into disease(s).
The standard and optimal reference ranges for thyroid hormone markers are prime examples of how lab interpretation varies between allopathic and functional doctors.
The Benefits of Incorporating Specialty Lab Testing in Your Integrative Medicine Clinic
Specialty lab testing is a niche service. By incorporating it into your business, you allow yourself the opportunity to broaden your impact on a larger demographic by offering a service that isn't available through other doctors.
Functional testing is needed in a country riddled with chronic disease to shift the medical paradigm to a root-cause preventive healthcare model. These testing options provide the necessary data to understand the mechanisms underlying symptoms and disease and to individualize treatment plans for increased patient success and satisfaction.
In 2019, the Cleveland Clinic published that functional medicine services greatly improved patient quality of life in as soon as six months. Specialty labs are one aspect of the functional medicine approach that generates excellent patient care.
How to Use Labshops With Specialty Testing
Rupa Health is now making the incorporation of specialty testing into clinical practice and health coaching programs easier than ever with the launch of LabShops. LabShops is an e-commerce platform that allows you to increase the value of your educational content and programs by offering specialty testing options to your clients.
Perks of this new feature include:
- Access to over 3,000 lab tests
- Customizable e-commerce page with your branding
- The ability to offer testing nationwide, even in states where you are not licensed to do so, with Rupa's Physician Services
- Create custom fees and get paid out by Stripe once the lab results are reported
- The Rupa experience takes the hassle out of lab ordering for practitioners and clients
How to Get Started With Specialty Lab Testing
Integrating specialty testing into your clinical practice can feel overwhelming. Rupa Health is on a mission to help by providing a platform that allows easy and cost-effective access to functional lab testing.
Still trying to figure out where to start? Consider ordering one of the most popular functional medicine tests among doctors. You can read more about implementing a functional medicine approach into your business through the wealth of information provided in Rupa's online magazine.
Check out Rupa University, an educational resource for free classes and boot camps on topics related to specialty testing.
And tune in weekly to listen to The Root Cause Medicine Podcast, where Dr. Carrie Jones, Rupa Health's Head of Medical Education, discusses hot topics in medicine with guest health experts.
Specialty labs are a vital component of a comprehensive health assessment, along with a detailed medical history and physical exam. Standard labs and allopathic reference ranges frequently leave patients wanting more from their doctor experience. The non-standard biomarkers and optimal reference ranges available through specialty testing provide doctors with the detailed information required to understand their patients' health status, tailor holistic treatment plans, and prevent and reverse disease. Rupa Health provides doctors access to specialty testing and educational resources to implement new testing options effortlessly into your healthcare business.