(CBS 5) — You can now order your own lab tests online without seeing a doctor. These tests are easy to find and make claims of being private, convenient, and affordable. Test results are reported by e-mail and they can save time and money, but are they a good idea?

Peter Mango recently learned he has high cholesterol. To control it, he needs to monitor it. But instead of going to a doctor, Mango ordered his own blood test online.

He signed up at directlabs.com. It meant he didn’t have to visit a doctor for the test, something he was trying to avoid because he pays $5,000 before his insurance picks up the tab.

“I remember thinking that the cost for a test that I got would probably be in the $500 to $800 range,” he said. “Having it done for $29.95 was a huge benefit.”

People can also order tests for many other issues, including diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, hormones and vitamin levels. But doctors said once you get your results, it is time for an office visit.

Mango eventually took his results to his doctor, who put him on medication, but he’ll continue to monitor his cholesterol on his own.

“The balance of between taking care of your health and weighing the impact of that on families’ finances is huge in this economy,” he said.

Some medical experts said being able to order your own tests is an important tool for patients. But, to ensure accuracy, make sure the online company sends your test to a lab that’s accredited by an organization like the College of American Pathologists.

Even though the online companies will alert you if your results are abnormal, it’s best to share your tests results on a regular basis with your physician.

(©2011 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved.)

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