Blood Testing for the Millennial Age
A growing interest within the health sector has given rise to the number of concerns that individuals have regarding their internal health. This trend has particularly been witnessed in millennials, with the modern generation investing more into health products and gadgets than ever before. Statistics suggest that unhealthy habits have a more negative stigma amongst this generation, with healthier and more environmental options becoming more popular. The desire to monitor cortisol, gluten and sugar levels, and the overall need to know what external/internal factors may be affecting their health may therefore impact the blood-testing market. Within this blog post, the US was monitored due to the increasing consumer demand for accessible blood-tests.
When looking at article numbers over the past two years, it is apparent that there is a growing interest in blood-tests. As of October, figures show a mere 10% difference when comparing 2018 and current 2019 article numbers, and a 17% difference when comparing engagement figures. The key driving story which drove peak levels of engagement during 2019 revealed a breakthrough in blood testing, stating that a ‘simple’ blood test could detect Alzheimer’s up to 16 years before symptoms begin. This story generated over 110.6K social media engagements.
Discussion of Critical Illness
Data suggests that the early identification of ‘critical illnesses’ is of utmost interest to individuals who are engaged with blood tests. When looking at the top 10 most engaged with articles over the past two years, eight out of 10 of these articles focused on the discovery of a blood test which could detect signs of critical illnesses including: Alzheimer’s, cancer and fibromyalgia. Articles which commented on these topics generated social media buzz due to the topic of ‘misdiagnosis’, with many stating that these blood tests would have otherwise saved individuals from months or years of pain.
Interestingly, conversations surrounding critical illnesses appear to mainly take place on Facebook. Furthermore, when looking at the data, only 6% (Alzheimer’s detection) and 37% (fibromyalgia blood test) of interactions were generated from public pages. This therefore shows that majority of engagements with the stories were generated via shares to private groups or pages. The ratio of public and private engagements could have been impacted by the presence of private groups spread throughout the social media platform, allowing alike-people to discuss matters in a private matter without fear of others not understanding their viewpoints.
When gauging user reactions surrounding the release of such news, reactions were highly mixed. Whilst some users expressed that these discoveries are breakthroughs in the healthcare industry, many others expressed scepticism and concern.
It is clear that whilst most of the time, these blood-test discoveries were predominantly well-received, others expressed that test results would take a long time to be processed, while some complained about the potentially expensive financial costs. Amongst mentions of financial concerns, users also exclaimed that because the price of the tests were believed to be expensive, access to this type of service remains restricted for most of the US population.
Whilst it was apparent that discussion surrounding critical illnesses drove top stories on social media in regards to blood-tests, conversation surrounding dietary and vitamin monitoring was more prevalent on Twitter and forums.
When looking at overall social media mentions of blood tests, topics revolving around dietary allergens emerged as the most prevalent interest. In particular, social media users expressed concern over their blood sugar and glucose levels. Whilst users have stated that they purchase or use blood tests to track their sugar levels for management of diabetes, users who follow a keto-diet have also reported to purchase a test to monitor sugar. Other than dietary topics, vitamin levels was the fourth most topic discussed. Discussion surrounding the detection of illnesses also dominated three out of the top five categories for blood tests.
Blood Tests and Finance
Research into whether there were concerns surrounding blood test costs was also conducted with the aim of uncovering whether there was a price preference in the blood testing market.
Comments have illustrated the great concern that individuals have regarding the cost of a blood test in the United States. For example, social media users reported that they abstained from going to the doctors to avoid expensive charges. This fear over whether one’s insurance would cover charges, or concerns about what would happen without their insurance, demonstrates that there could be a potential white space in the market for affordable home blood-tests.
Distrust in the Market: Controversy of Theranos
A major story that shook consumer trust within the blood-testing sector surrounded ‘Theranos’, an innovative blood-testing company. Theranos claimed that it had developed a blood test that required only a small quantity of blood to detect a number of different health ailments. However, these claims were later found to be false, with news of these findings spreading quickly across both online media outlets and social media. As a result, this may have created distrust within the blood-testing market, potentially alerting consumers to be more aware about promises made by similar companies.
There are two distinct peaks in the data: one on January 24, 2019, which was driven by a critical article that was published on Reddit, and another on March 20 following the sudden spread of online news articles which criticised the company for its fraudulent activities. A small number of users (269 mentions) also expressed fear over what their blood-samples were otherwise used for, highlighting the importance of company transparency.
However, some blood-testing companies have utilised the downfall of Theranos to their advantage in an attempt to fill the market opportunity that has now opened up. For example, Julia Cheek, founder of blood-testing company EverlyWell, made a re-emergence in online news following Theranos’ negative coverage. The company states that consumers will have the ability to order their own blood tests in the process making them more user-friendly and inexpensive. Tests available include thyroid function, vitamin D levels, or food sensitivity tests. The desire for understanding and taking control of one’s own health is also evident in the company’s significant increase in sales, where sales have increased from $6million in 2017, to $20million in 2018 and an expected $50million in 2019.
Our research into who is interested in blood tests and what people want to find out revealed that detection of critical illness, specifically cancer and diabetes, is of particular concern. However, the overarching issue relating to blood tests was the fear of costs, especially in the US where these concerns were muddied with worries about insurance coverage. The controversy about Theranos compounded the lack of trust in companies producing healthcare products in an already tense climate.
However, there appears to be a few companies who have taken on the market with at-home blood tests, seemingly filling in the gap as the next best option for those concerned about healthcare/insurance costs involved with visiting a doctor. There is also a desire for these tests to be cheap and affordable, with the choice to take a blood-sample in a controlled and safe environment, such as from the comfort of one’s own home, proving to be an attractive option.