Most of the time, genetic testing is done through healthcare providers such as physicians, nurse practitioners, and genetic counselors. Healthcare providers determine which test is needed, order the test from a laboratory, collect and send the DNA sample, interpret the test results, and share the results with the patient. Often, a health insurance company covers part or all of the cost of testing.
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is different: these genetic tests are marketed directly to customers via television, print advertisements, or the Internet, and the tests can be bought online or in stores. Customers send the company a DNA sample and receive their results directly from a secure website or in a written report. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing provides people access to their genetic information without necessarily involving a healthcare provider or health insurance company in the process.
Dozens of companies currently offer direct-to-consumer genetic tests for a variety of purposes. The most popular tests use genetic variations to make predictions about health, provide information about common traits, and offer clues about a person’s ancestry. The number of companies providing direct-to-consumer genetic testing is growing, along with the range of health conditions and traits covered by these tests. Because there is currently little regulation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing services, it is important to assess the quality of available services before pursuing any testing.
Other names for direct-to-consumer genetic testing include DTC genetic testing, direct-access genetic testing, at-home genetic testing, and home DNA testing. Ancestry testing (also called genealogy testing) is also considered a form of direct-to-consumer genetic testing.