Austin, Texas-based EverlyWell, which offers a digital platform for consumers to order and provide samples for a suite of lab tests and receive results in an easy-to-read online report, has added tests for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV to their repertoire.
The new offerings mark EverlyWell’s move into testing for specific conditions and offering diagnoses. When they initially launched last September, the tests were geared at health and wellness, testing across eight different areas including food sensitivity, metabolism, women’s fertility, cholesterol and lipids.
“It’s always been a plan to bring as many proven tests to consumers as we could,” EverlyWell CEO Julia Cheek told MobiHealthNews. “We are responding to what consumers are looking for and what we can provide, and we found that people are really thinking about their sexual health and reproductive health testing.”
Citing a 2015 CDC statistic that showed STD rates in the United States are at an “unprecedented high,” Cheek said EverlyWell wants to make testing for them as hassle-free and frequent as possible.
“We’re becoming a known brand in consumer testing, and, frankly, we just need people who are sexually active to know we exist,” said Cheek.
The comprehensive STD test, which costs $249 and is covered by HSA or FSA accounts, covers diseases including HIV, syphilis, herpes type 2, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Like their other offerings, users order the test online and provide samples of either blood, urine or saliva, send it back to the lab and receive easy-to-understand results on a web platform. Tests that require blood are done so with a fingerprick lancet to provide a few drops of blood to a lab using validated panels.
EverlyWell works with six certified labs to analyze their existing suite of tests. Molecular Testing Labs, which has an in-home STD collection test on the market for over a year with an accuracy of over 99 percent, will analyze EverlyWell’s new offering. In the case of abnormal results, a licensed physician will follow up, and users who test positive for a curable condition will receive a prescription for the appropriate medication. For those who receive a result for an incurable condition, physicians will also help guide them through the next steps.
“As opposed to our other tests that are lifestyle or supplement recommendations, we’re entering into a very different space,” said Cheek, noting that they have an added responsibility with this type of testing. “We have both a legal and ethical responsibility in terms of follow-up, and we uphold the same process as other STD testing organizations where we will actually hold results until we make contact with customers.”
The physicians who follow up all have experience in counseling those with potentially life-changing test results, and Cheek said EverlyWell modeled this service on the work of providers like Planned Parenthood. EverlyWell isn’t the first company to offer at-home testing kits for STDs and HIV, but they see their innovation primarily in the easily readable result format and overall consumer focus.
“Planned Parenthood had a very real role in promoting this type of at-home service and confidentiality, and they and other precedents really set the standard for how we designed our testing and follow up process,” Cheek said. “And while there are groups that have this product available, the challenge is that it is not so user friendly, and it may be hard to be able to trust.”
With the expanded offerings, Cheek said the company will be expanding their workforce as well. When they launched in beta in April 2016, they attracted 1,500 paying customers in just three months. Since their official launch, that number has grown to 5,000, and they expect to hit $1 million in sales this month. EverlyWell currently employs just seven people full-time (although bolstered by a large physician network and lab partners), so the company will be hiring more engineers and designers in the next year.
“In the next year, we will offer more tests, announce some exciting partnerships, and we are also looking at a subscription product,” said Cheek.
Along with making regular testing for STDs easier and less embarrassing, Cheek said EverlyWell is also responding to the rising uncertainty in whether certain sexual health services will continue to exist as they currently do. Additionally, they are trying to address coverage gaps people may experience.
“In terms of the political environment, we have done a fair amount of analysis with the potentially new, changing policies,” Cheek said. “If there are a large number of uninsured, we may see more people under HSA accounts, which we are covered by. Then we have customers who say, ‘I just want to go through you,’ as some services change and others may not have access. So we look forward to being parachutes for a lot of people.” Zoom Lebron XIV 14