Dec 15, 2020 - Health

The at-home health testing boom

Illustration of a house made out of cotton swabs.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic has supercharged the market for at-home testing for a slew of common conditions — everything from cholesterol checks to cancer screenings.

Why it matters: At-home health tests can help Americans avoid a trip to the doctor’s office, though experts say they're not a perfect replacement.

The big picture: "Just as we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine during COVID ... you’re also going to see how testing, home diagnosis is becoming much more important," said Nicolas Terry, a health law expert at Indiana University.

The state of play: Several companies that received emergency use authorization for take-home COVID-19 tests, including LetsGetChecked and Everlywell, have seen a surge in orders for their other tests, too.

  • Demand has doubled for about 75% of Everlywell's tests, which detect vitamin deficiencies, Lyme disease and sexually transmitted diseases. Everlywell raised $175 million in funding last week as its valuation climbed 740%.
  • LetsGetChecked's demand was up 880% from 2019. 
  • Startup Truepill plans to launch a network of labs that to process at-home tests, after raising $75 million in the fall.

What they're saying: "We live in a world today where we order something on our phone and it shows up the same hour or the next day, and consumers are demanding that in their health care experiences as well," Sid Viswanathan, Truepill's co-founder and president, tells Axios.

Yes, but: Health tests outside of a doctor's office run a higher risk of human error and, in some cases, false positives.

  • Customers may have to pay full price for the tests if their health insurance does not cover them.

The bottom line: "I would always urge caution in moving outside of the traditional health care scenario, but equally I understand that people are anxious," Terry said.

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