Background In recent years, self-tests have become increasingly available to the general public, though their value is still being debated. Because these tests are available, consumers should have access to clear information about self-testing. Examining experiences of self-testers could contribute to the development of consumer information.
Objective Detailed exploration of consumers’ experiences with self-testing for cardiovascular risk factors.
Methods Semi-structured interviews with 20 consumers who had performed a self-test for glucose, cholesterol or albuminuria. The main topics of the interviews were reasons for self-testing, performing the self-test, follow-up behaviour and perceived need for information on self-testing. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis.
Results Regarding the reason for self-testing, three types of users were distinguished: those who engaged in self-testing when a test was offered, either with or without previous knowledge about the disease or risk factor, and those who had actively decided to test and had searched for a self-test themselves. Self-testers had generally experienced no problems performing the test or interpreting the result and had considerable confidence in the result. They were easily reassured by a normal result, while an abnormal result did not automatically mean they consulted a doctor. Most participants did not feel the need for more information.
Conclusions Self-testers often perform tests for reassurance, without considering the disadvantages, such as the absence of professional counselling and the risk of false-positive or false-negative results. Consumer information should promote more informed and deliberate choices for self-testing.