Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in digital healthcare. Consumers increasingly want more control over their health and are looking for new tools and technology that give them insights into their wellbeing, outside of their regular yearly doctor’s appointments. To better understand this, I connected with Paul Owen, President of imaware.
Gary Drenik: Thanks to companies like Theranos, at-home screening methods, which require a few drops of blood or saliva, have drawn criticism. What tests do you offer and how do imaware’s testing kits work?
Paul Owen: imaware is a digital health solutions company on a mission to empower individuals’ health by providing convenient, precise, and accessible at-home testing.
We do this for a range of preventable illnesses, including diabetes, women’s and men’s health, immunodeficiency, and thyroid screening.
Most of our tests work by simple at-home blood sampling, which can typically be drawn from your fingertip. Once you receive your test kit and are ready to start the sample collection, simply prick your finger with a lancet and put the required amount of blood droplets into or on the collection device.
From there, patients send their sample back to one of our partner labs. With prepaid shipping labels, these packages can be dropped off at the nearest courier location on the same day a patient completes their test.
Approximately 7-10 days later, patients will receive their physician-reviewed results in a secure online dashboard. We make sure to break down any complicated medical jargon, so that results are more easily understood.
We set out to revolutionize an otherwise inconsistent screening industry and account for the many people who don’t visit the doctor’s office. In fact, a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that 80% of people surveyed did not visit a walk-in-clinic in the last three months. With imaware, patients can take charge of their health and be more proactive, enabling them to catch changes in their health more quickly.
Drenik: The at-home testing and diagnostics space is crowded. How does imaware differentiate itself from other players in digital healthcare?
Owen: The digital healthcare space (and at-home healthcare) is increasingly crowded, but imaware stands out for a few key reasons:
- Strong customer experience: The company has created a simple, intuitive, and easy-to-read process that guides patients through each step, from the initial blood collection to providing patients with resources.
- Deep scientific rigor: When the founders set out to build imaware, accuracy and science were two of the key pillars of the brand. As a result, all tests are processed by the top labs in the country and provide CLIA-certified, CAP-accredited, and NYS-credited screening. It is also one of the only peer-reviewed leaders in home-based small-volume testing.
- Ability to offer full customization or personalization: As a part of imaware’s B2B arm, the company has the ability to create fully custom panels, tailored to a third party’s specific needs. For example, Elo Health turned to imaware to develop a personalized supplement regimen with specific nutrients hand-selected for each patient’s health outcomes.
- Quick and seamless integration: As a part of their work with third parties, imaware’s API integrates seamlessly into customers’ existing platforms, presenting a uniform brand image and experience all the while saving brands time and costs when it comes to investing in technical development.
Gary Drenik: What are some of the most commonly misunderstood assumptions about at-home testing?
Owen: A few common misconceptions that have come up are:
- Test results can be misinterpreted or inaccurate, and this could lead to wrong medications or therapies being recommended. We’ve addressed these issues by laying out a patient’s results clearly and intuitively and providing them with clear next steps, like suggested lifestyle changes they can explore. If their results are out of the norm, we’ll recommend that they see their doctor for follow-up care. Additionally, we work with the top labs in the country to ensure the highest quality and accuracy in test results
- Testing kits are sensitive, and results can get altered or damaged when in transportation back to a lab. From the get-go, it was critical that we developed a system and the right packaging to ensure that test results were not compromised once they left a patient’s home. We designed multilayer packaging, and our collection devices help the sample remain stable at ambient temperatures for several days. We also inspect the sample to ensure it’s viable before testing to ensure accurate results. If your sample has any degradation, we notify patients and reship a new test.
- People will rely solely on at-home tests vs. regular healthcare assessment, which could put patients at risk of overlooking more serious symptoms. At imaware, we believe that at-home testing should supplement traditional engagements with your doctor. While our tests can help you proactively identify and monitor your health, regular check-ups are important to continue with your physician.
Drenik: Post-Covid-19 at-home testing has become a normal activity for the majority of individuals. And it makes me reflect on the fact that we’re seeing a shift in healthcare where consumers want to have more control and take more proactive measures when it comes to their health. Can you talk a bit more about that shift and what individuals/patients are expecting from digital healthcare providers today?
Owen: More so than any other time in history, individuals have more access to their health information. With this information, we’re seeing a shift — consumers want to be active and involved participants in their healthcare.
As a part of this empowerment movement, consumers are putting pressure on their healthcare providers for more autonomy regarding specific services and solutions. This has in part given rise to a whole slew of digital healthcare startups that promise improved experiences where patients can have great input and a better standard of care.
If I had to sum up a few key elements that patients are looking for today from digital healthcare providers, I’d say:
- Convenience: From requesting referrals to prescription refills to self-scheduling, patients want to communicate in the way that is best for them. Today that predominantly looks like engagement via text, chat, or telehealth appointments. Even for in-person appointments, convenience is key. According to data from a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, those who visited walk-in clinics did so due to convenient location (37%) and convenient hours (38.7%).
- Engaging experiences: Despite more consumers gravitating towards digital communications with their providers, they want online experiences to match in-person interactions when it comes to relevance and consistency.
- Proactivity and personalization: Consumers also expect physicians to show a deep understanding of them beyond their healthcare data. Proactive outreach ahead of appointments, especially for yearly checkups, is becoming increasingly top of mind.
Drenik: Looking ahead, what trends are you anticipating this year as it pertains to digital healthcare?
Owen: As patients are more accustomed to digital interactions, we’ll likely see deeper investment from providers into patient portals. Not only will this enable better data sharing for test results, but portals are incredibly instrumental in making day-to-day actions, like prescription refills or getting in touch with a doctor directly, more efficient.
With that, I also expect that the demand for telemedicine will continue to skyrocket. Covid-19 was definitely an accelerant of this trend, and there are no signs that the demand for telehealth is slowing down. Not only will this give patients more convenience, but it also will allow providers to expand access to care.
Drenik: What’s next for imaware?
Owen: imaware will release additional consumer-facing tests in 2023. For example, we’re looking at our first at-home metabolism test, which will test for hormone imbalances. And we’ll also be ramping up our B2B portfolio, working to help our partners scale and personalize health and wellness offerings for their customers.
Drenik: Thanks for your time and thoughtful insights on where digital health is headed. The message is clear: telemedicine will continue to grow at a fast clip and consumers will become even more empowered about their healthcare needs.