By Patricia Salber
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To further explore the idea of Do It Yourself Health Care, I have been looking at innovative companies playing in that space. BioIQ is a great example. The Santa Barbara-based company offers consumers the opportunity to screen themselves for diabetes and heart disease in the comfort of their own home. You don’t need to see your doctor to order the test and you don’t need to go to the lab.
Once you sign up on their website, you can order the tests you want, and they promptly send you their “Micro Sample Collection Convenience Kit.” The kit contains everything you need to obtain a small sample (four drops) of blood, place it in a collection container and mail back to BioIQ for processing. They even provide the bandaid!
I asked co-founder and CEO, Justin Bellante, a former PhD candidate in Materials Engineering, why not just make a quick trip to the local drug store to pick up home test kits for glucose, hemoglobin A1c and lipids?
Two reasons, he said:
- Our tests are reliable so not only consumers, but also their doctors, will trust them.
- The data is stored online and can be tracked over time. It is the change in values that are important, not just a single value at a single point in time.
How does he know the tests are reliable? Because they do periodic comparisons of their results with the gold standard – a simultaneous venous draw done in a certified laboratory.
The BioIQ consumer website is uncluttered and easy to navigate. There are a number of health risk questionnaires you are asked to fill out. Most of the time, when you answer a question, the answer auto-populates the other questionnaires. The feedback is easy to understand and couched in supportive terms – making it clear that there are some risks you have no control over (e.g., a parent with diabetes) and others that you do (diet and exercise — of course).
BioIQ views its core competency as facilitating test ordering and collection. Justin told me they aspire to be the Netflix of Healthcare…lord knows, healthcare could use (pardon the pun) a healthy dose of Netflix convenience and service. Ordering lab tests online eliminates the need for a trip to the doctor to order the test and then, often times, a separate trip to a lab facility to get the blood draw, and then – as happened to me recently, still another trip to the doctor to get the results. Who designed that system? And, who benefits from it?
I worried that the tests might be a bit pricey for most consumers ($65.95 plus shipping and handling for the A1c/Diabetes & Cholesterol Panel Combo Test)…and indeed, BioIQ has found that many consumers simply don’t want to pay out of pocket. The fact is, we are used to having “someone else” pay for health care – we simply forget that, in the end, we all pay, one way or another, for what gets paid for by insurance. That being said, the “moral hazard” of health insurance is a powerful motivator that often leads us to forgo something rather than have to pay out of pocket.
Justin had a response to the cost concerns as well, saying, just add up the co-pays on one or two doctor’s office visits and for some, the co-pay on the lab tests. Now factor in the indirect costs of driving to and from the doctor and the lab, lost work, exposure to sick people, and the $65.95 doesn’t look so bad – good point, Justin.
Right now, BioIQ’s main customers are employers who want to help their employees stay healthy, large insurers, such as United Healthcare, and disease management companies, such as Alere (BTW, these large companies are able to purchase the BioIQ’s tests at a volume discount). All of this is good, but in the spirit of Do Itself Healthcare, I hope that consumers discover the joys of home laboratory testing and start agitating for more and more services delivered in the manner in which we have become accustomed in other areas of our lives: ordered online and delivered directly to your home. Way to go, BioIQ.