Private laboratories are charging patients four times more for tests compared to the rates in public health facilities, a new survey has revealed.
The survey; “Information asymmetry in the Kenyan medical laboratory sector” – which was published in the Global Health Action last month, also assessed patients’ knowledge of testing information including turnaround time, price, and test availability.
According to the report by the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board, the private laboratories take advantage of the patient’s ignorance in not knowing the tests have been prescribed and even the costs.
“There was a wide range of prices on several key tests, with private in-facility laboratories charging an average test price of 468 percent of the average test price in public laboratories across all the 49 tests,” the researchers said.
Malaria tests are the most exploited with private laboratories charging up to six times the average cost at public labs.
The researchers observed that most patients lacked key information regarding the tests and did not understand the purposes.
“We also found that many patients lacked key information regarding the tests they needed and 65 percent did not know the purpose of the test while 41 percent did not know the test price at all,” the researchers said.
Laboratory tests prices in Kenya are not regulated, which has given private facilities a window of exploitation. The researchers noted that most facilities do not display their costs.
“We noted that 85.7 percent of the private facilities and the two faith-based laboratories did not provide information on test price and turnaround time publicly to the patients.”
The study has called for more investment in public health facilities to address the challenge and regulation of laboratory prices in the country.
According to KMLTTB records, at least 522 medical laboratories had been licensed to operate in Nairobi in 2019 when the study was conducted.
The 522 are three public, 12 faith-based and 507 private laboratories.
The study sample was made up of 13 medical laboratories consisting of seven private laboratories, two faith-based, three public and one academic (not-for-profit) laboratory.
The research was done alongside the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Aga Khan University, the University of Oxford and the University of Waterloo, Canada.