Information is Power: At Home Personalized Diagnostics
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Today, consumers are tracking their daily steps and their sleep patterns along with logging their food intake. Individuals can be obsessed with this personalized data, using it to monitor healthy behaviors, manage weight and chronic conditions, and set lifestyle goals. Wearables are becoming more sophisticated with the ability to monitor blood sugar levels or dose multiple medications or supplements throughout the day. Layered on top of this lifestyle monitoring is the ability to use a variety of diagnostic tests at home, creating a new industry of personalized diagnostics. Based on blood or stool samples or cheek swabs, consumers are spending their own dollars to better understand nutrient deficiencies, the state of their microbiome, or if they are gluten sensitive.
Personalized diagnostics creates new opportunities for retail dietitians as you have direct influence on and access to the consumer, and these tests are designed for use by the individual. Consider these suggestions for how to offer new services and income streams based on these tests:
- Recommend credible tests. Not all at-home tests are as accurate as in-clinic tests administered by a medical professional. Additionally, there is broad standardization and regulation of personalized diagnostics. Partner with pharmacy to understand the landscape, options, and validity and make recommendations to shoppers on which tests to use. Once you’ve established your list of suggested tests, work with these vendors on product promotions.
- Interpret results. While test results come with detailed content on their meaning, consumers still struggle to interpret the data. Offer classes or individual appointments on the interpretation of the results, providing that added layer of context to the shopper’s health conditions or concerns and lifestyle habits, including eating patterns, supplement use, activity, stress, and sleep. Consider offering these services for free as an introduction to retail RD consults. Suggest packages and future repeat testing to help the shopper monitor their progress over time.
- Add private label offering. In the category of personalized diagnostics, the real money to be made is in selling products that fill the gaps, helping bring numbers into normal ranges. Personalized blends of vitamins and minerals are created and shipped directly to the consumer or pre- and probiotic supplements are recommended, for example. Build partnerships with companies to private label these solutions, with your retailer getting a cut of the profits.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased shopper interest in personalized diagnostics and futurists predict this area will expand significantly over the next 5-10 years. Building these opportunities into your health and well-being business plan this year will position you for continued success.