AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-based company Everlywell announced that it will launch a way for consumers to get tested and get diagnosed for COVID-19 from home. In a release Wednesday, Everlywell said this testing will be available to consumers on March 23.
Everlywell is a digital health company that sells at-home lab tests for things like cholesterol and fertility. The company plans to initially offer 30,000 collection kits, which it says will be done “at no profit to the company.” On Twitter Wednesday, Everlywell CEO Julia Cheek said that the company will “ramp up to 250,000 tests weekly.”
Everlywell believes this effort will “significantly impact total coronavirus testing capacity in the United States.”
As COVID-19 has spread across the U.S. in the past few weeks, regions have seen delays and confusion surrounding access to these tests, with federal leaders acknowledging the lack of test kits to meet the demand.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, an online effort that collects information from 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 5 U.S. territories about testing data for the novel coronavirus, more than 82,000 people have been tested in the U.S. as of the time of this article.
Everlywell said it has worked with multiple labs to roll out these tests. The company plans to be able to test and diagnose 250,000 people each week.
When it comes to how those tests will get to people, Everlywell said it plans to use its existing system and distribute the at-home lab testing. On March 8, the company announced a $1 million development incentive to any certified laboratories who meet the requirements set by the FDA and Everlywell to “prioritize the development of a COVID-19 diagnostic test.” During this outreach, Everlywell said it received a positive response from laboratories, allowing the company to create a testing and diagnosis system for COVID-19 over the course of several days.
The company believes there’s a benefit to collecting samples at home: this prevents exposing the patient to potential infection and prevents exposing the public to any illnesses the patient may have. Everlywell says all of the laboratories it is working with for this new testing venture are in compliance with FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for COVID-19 testing.
How it works
People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can request the test online at Everlywell’s website. They will be first be asked to complete a screening questionnaire based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines and from the telehealth company working with Everlywell.
The tests will cost $135 at no profit to Everlywell. The company says these tests will be covered by participating Health Savings Account and Flexible Spending Account providers.
Then the test gets shipped to customers, along with the things patients will need to collect samples at home and to ship the samples to a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certified lab. The samples will get shipped to the labs through overnight delivery.
Everlywell said patients should be able to access secure digital results online within 48 hours of the lab receiving the sample. Free telehealth consultations with an independent board-certified physician will be available for people who receive positive results, the company said.
That timeline for returned testing results is similar to what Austin Public Health offers. APH said Wednesday that testing at their sites can see results returned from labs as fast as 24 hours, but more often it takes a couple of days to get results.
Everlywell said it is HIPAA compliant and that it “will never sell customer data.”
If your results come back positive, the company will offer you a telehealth meeting with a board-certified physician from PWN Health who describes itself as a national clinician network that provides access to diagnostic testing.
Everlywell says positive test results will be communicated with all required state and federal entities.
‘Unmet medical need’
Dr. Frank Ong, M.D., Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of Everlywell, explained in a release that he sees an “unmet medical need” to increase access to testing for the new coronavirus and to “help alleviate the potential overload on healthcare systems and healthcare providers if testing was only available in the limited clinical setting.”
Testing is in high demand, both across the country and in the Austin area. Austin Public Health has opted not to disclose the locations of its testing sites unless a patient is referred there by a medical professional. Due to the demand for testing, Everlywell said it will be working to quickly get more tests available “as the global supply shortage for COVID-19 diagnostic kits is addressed.”
“Everlywell was founded to give people affordable, convenient access to lab testing. Never has our mission been more important,” said Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell. “Our team has been working around the clock with top scientists and laboratories in the nation to develop a test that we will make available at the lowest price possible while covering our costs, at no profit to the company.”
Cheek also noted that her company has also, “reached out to government and public health officials to explore possibilities to provide it for free.”