Scanwell Health, the maker of a smartphone-based platform for home urinary tract infection screening, announced last week that it will be playing a role in the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study, an ongoing, multicenter investigation of chronic kidney disease and other comorbid chronic conditions sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
As a result of the partnership, up 1,250 of the study’s participants will be conducting their own monthly urine testing for kidney disease from the comfort of their own homes, thanks to a new version of the Scanwell diagnostic platform that’s been designed to screen for the condition.
“By the time people really find out they have [chronic kidney disease], they’re basically preparing for end-stage renal disease and dialysis,” Stephen Chen, founder and CEO of Scanwell Health, told MobiHealthNews. “If you can find out sooner, data shows that early intervention helps. The problem is that people don’t know because they don’t get screened, and they don’t want to go out of their way to get tested. We now have a way to reach the patients where they are, in their home.”
Scanwell Health initially made its mark as the first FDA-cleared home urine testing app. Its UTI service asks consumers to urinate on the low-cost, mail-order test kit and take a photo of the results with the Scanwell app. With this, the company is able to connect users to an in-house physician at low cost and prescribe any necessary antibiotics within a single day.
For the CRIC Study, the company is providing participants with a white labelled version of the app and, for the first time, its kidney disease test kits. The project will stand as an example of how Scanwell can adapt its core platform for a range of different indications, Chen said.
“Basic chemistry assays are still 80 percent of diagnostics. We’re able to take those, adapt them to our platform, and because we’re able to get them out to people cheaply and at scale, then that allows the data to flow back to some of our partners. That’s the really interesting piece here — there’s a lot of use cases in which that’s valuable,” he said.
WHY IT MATTERS
Outside of the new indication, the CRIC partnership is also an indication that Scanwell is looking to expand its business beyond the consumer telehealth market and into the broader role of a “diagnostics as a service” company. According to Chen, Scanwell is currently in talks with a number of different healthcare partners that are interested in providing regular and convenient urine, blood and saliva screens to their patient populations.
“There’s a lot of interesting things you can do if you can get these diagnostics out to people at scale,” he said. “Some of the conditions may be user or consumer initiated, and we can still take that. But [for] the more complex conditions and more chronic conditions, it’s the providers that are trying to initiate that screening or treatment. And you look at some of the other startups like Omada or Livongo, they’re tackling some of these conditions. I’d think there are diagnostics that they would want for their customers, right? So we’re taking a very broad approach. … The system is complex. You have to be flexible.”
WHAT’S THE TREND
Scanwell has no shortage of competition in the realm of smartphone-based home screening, and the past year in particular has seen a number of players secure FDA clearances. healthy.io, TestCard, Mira and inui Health are also pursing the market with their own urine testing platforms, while 1Drop Diagnostics, Thriva, EverlyWell and even LabCorp are offering blood-based home screens to consumers and partners as well.