Austin (KXAN) — An Austin-based company that was planning to launch at-home test and diagnosis kits for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for consumers is sending its first batch of test kits to hospitals and healthcare systems.
Everlywell, a digital health company that sells at-home lab tests for things like cholesterol and fertility, announced last week that they would debut 30,000 of their new COVID-19 test kits Monday, March 23 for consumer purchase “at no profit to the company.”
The company explained in an email that these tests will still be released Monday but that Everlywell had made the decision to “allocate tomorrow’s (Monday) supply of COVID-19 tests to hospitals and healthcare systems only in order to get these tests in the hands of those who need them most urgently.”
The company says this decision came after it received thousands of emails since Wednesday “from hospital systems, doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers on the front lines” asking the company for access to these tests – both for their highest risk patients and for themselves.
Additionally, Everlywell cited a briefing from the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force and the response from the medical community as reasons why “it has become increasingly apparent there is a desperate need for healthcare workers caring for sick patients on the front lines to have priority access to testing for COVID-19.”
Everlywell added that they are still committed to making these tests available soon to consumers “who fall within the CDC’s guidelines for recommended testing.”
The company expects to provide updates about the consumer availability of these tests on its website.
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, state, and local leaders acknowledging the lack of test kits to meet the demand.
A spokesperson for Everlywell told KXAN that any positive test results from their COVID-19 test kits will be shared with “appropriate federal and state agencies as mandated.”
The spokesperson has also added Everlywell has “reached out to government officials in Austin to see how we can help. “
About the tests
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 using for testing 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 — a national clinician network that provides access to diagnostic testing.