Welcome to our “Innovators Worth Watching” series, spotlighting interesting and potentially disruptive players across a spectrum of industries.
Thanks to a recent explosion of at-home health and wellness innovations, consumers are learning more about themselves and their health. From fitness trackers, to DNA tests like 23andMe, to at-home fertility test Modern Fertility, it’s becoming increasingly easy for consumers to take their health into their own hands. Historically, one thing has stood between consumers and at-home medical testing: the need to collect a sample. Enter EverlyWell.
Founded in 2015, EverlyWell is an at-home kit that allows consumers to conduct a wide range of medical tests with ease and convenience by collecting blood or other samples at home, while claiming to be cheaper than traditional lab testing. They offer more than 30 tests; from their popular Food Sensitivity Kit, to thyroid, metabolism, and vitamin level kits; and provide everything needed to collect the sample, including easy to follow instructions for self collection, and secure packaging for mailing the sample back. After five business days, EverlyWell emails customers their results through the company’s secure server.
Ads for EverlyWell kits can be seen all over Facebook, the kits are being used by celebrities on Instagram, and the company was even featured on Shark Tank. But reviews for the kits are mixed, with some even calling the tests “medically dubious”. Is EverlyWell’s model of providing extensive at-home health tests disruptive to the current model of lab testing, or will customers ultimately favor traditional solutions they deem more “trustworthy”? We put it through our six-question test to find out.
1. Does it target people whose only alternative is to buy nothing at all (nonconsumers) or who are overserved by existing offerings in the market?
Yes, EverlyWell targets nonconsumers. By taking the tests out of the doctor’s office, medical tests become accessible to those who may not have transportation to get them to a medical lab, or who do not have flexible schedules allowing them to go in for bloodwork.
Financially, it makes some medical testing available to those who go without due to lack of insurance or high out of pocket costs. CEO and Founder, Julia Cheek, explained that many of their popular tests are not traditionally covered by insurance, making testing such as vitamin and hormone levels more affordable.
2. Is the offering not as good as existing offerings as judged by historical measures of performance?
Maybe. While EverlyWell conducts its tests in the same labs that hospitals and primary care offices use for doctor-ordered tests, the sample collection is done by the customer rather than a phlebotomist. Samples could be compromised since collecting them at home provides opportunity for user error. However, peer-reviewed studies do show that self-collected samples are just as accurate as samples collected by a phlebotomist.
Although having samples collected by inexperienced consumers could result in an increased contamination risk, it’s important to note that most of the United States deems the test up to standards. In fact, EverlyWell just recently expanded to Maryland, leaving New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island as the only states preventing kits from being shipped to their residents. While one could argue this is evidence that the test is not as good as traditional methods, a case could also be made that the regulations in these three states are unnecessarily rigid.
3. Is the innovation simpler to use, more convenient, or more affordable than existing offerings?
Yes. Rather than being referred through a doctor and having to make an appointment for non-urgent medical testing, the kit is mailed directly to the user with simple instructions. It allows for medical testing to be done at a time that works for the user, in a comfortable and private setting. Then, the results are sent in an easy to view online format. Providers from EverlyWell’s network will call customers if there is a concerning result on any test, making results easy to understand. The platform provides an option to print out a PDF form of test results should customers want to discuss their results with a health professional.
Further, for people who lack insurance, or have high deductible health insurance, the kits are far cheaper than comparable tests at a doctor’s office. The average cost of getting blood work done in a medical lab for someone without insurance is $1500. Each kit ranges in price, from $39 for a single infection to a comprehensive men’s health panel for $179, and a women’s health panel for $399.
4. Does the offering have a technology that enables it to improve and move upmarket?
Yes. Cheek’s vision for EverlyWell includes growing the company by further into in-store retail (making the test available wherever people are already purchasing health and wellness products), and into states where regulations currently prevent the sale of at-home lab testing. This growth is entirely possible thanks to EverlyWell’s use of dried blood spot testing, a method of testing using only a small amount of blood rather than a vial, which eliminates the need for a medical professional to take customers’ blood samples.
5. Is the technology paired with an innovative business model that allows it to be sustainable?
Yes. Ordering lab tests through traditional methods can be frustrating and costly for customers who may not know what they owe until they receive a bill in the mail. The need for price transparency is why Cheek started EverlyWell—EverlyWell is betting on the idea that it can attract customers by mitigating this frustration through transparent pricing. If it’s able to channel its resources and processes to do so profitably, it should be financially sustainable.
6. Are existing providers motivated to ignore the new innovation and not feel threatened by it at the outset?
Yes. Large medical testing labs are structured to earn profits by working with payers and providers, who refer them patients. Since EverlyWell competes on the performance trajectories of price transparency, affordability, and convenience, incumbents are likely to ignore EverlyWell—even if they do feel threatened—since their model prevents them competing along the same trajectories.
Based on these questions, EverlyWell is likely to disrupt medical testing. As more customers gain access to medical information, especially those who do not have access to frequent medical care, they’ll be empowered to take effective and timely action in improving their own health. It will be interesting to watch as EverlyWell helps bring medical testing, a service once strictly relegated to medical offices, directly into the hands of the consumer.