A blood testing tech company? I’ve heard that one before…
Elizabeth Holmes famously sought to revolutionize blood testing with her unicorn-status company Theranos and its flagship product The Edison, which promised to perform hundreds of tests on a mere drop of blood gathered via a simple finger prick. In the end, of course, this promise turned out to be hyperbolic if not outright fraud, resulting in Theranos shutting down after investigations by an alphabet soup of three-letter governmental agencies and Holmes herself being indicted on various criminal counts. But while Holmes’ execution was deeply flawed and ethically problematic, her vision – to digitize blood testing, democratize patient access, and disrupt the $25B U.S. lab testing industry – was certainly a noble goal. And it’s one that the digital health company EverlyWell is taking on, though in a much more pragmatic way.
A tale of two customer journeys
Founded in 2015, EverlyWell is a digital health platform that enables consumers to bypass traditional medical gatekeepers and initiate their own lab tests to better understand their health. Consumers can either order one of 35 different test kits online or pick one up in their neighborhood Target store. The user then collects their own blood, urine, and/or saliva sample(s); places them into pre-paid packaging for transport to an independent lab; and waits a few days until the results and insights are available through the EverlyWell portal. For certain tests, such as STDs and Lyme Disease, if a user tests positive they can receive a physician consultation and prescription through the platform.
Alternatively, the traditional customer journey for a patient who suspects he or she has a health condition (e.g. a food sensitivity) and wants to pursue further testing is one that is unfortunately probably quite familiar: researching clinics within a given insurance network, waiting, scheduling appointments at inconvenient times, waiting, filling out paperwork, waiting, being led into a patient room (only to wait some more!), having a conversation to convince the physician of the testing need, relocating to the lab, waiting, getting blood drawn, waiting, and eventually receiving a message through an antiquated online messaging system with a text-based report that’s hard to comprehend without contextual information or a medical degree.
With the EverlyWell direct-to-consumer model, not only is the patient able to drive their own medical testing decisions, but they can do so in a manner which eliminates the time and agony of traditional medical visits while also improving price-transparency and confidentiality.
A winning strategy
EverlyWell’s innovative business model is winning in the lab testing space primarily for two key reasons.
First, they’ve recognized that digital disruption need not entail making revolutionary technological breakthroughs but rather can involve a focused and strategic business model innovation that successfully digitizes and disintermediates a traditional industry player. This approach is distinct from Theranos’ approach of radical transformation that required overcoming a series of extremely challenging (and perhaps impossible) technological breakthroughs for their model to be feasible. Rather, EverlyWell focused on creating an architectural change by combining a set of existing technologies – independent lab testing facilities, online portals, direct-to-consumer channels – in a compelling manner that solved various consumers pain points.
Second, EverlyWell’s early success in digital disruption is in part due to their focus on optimizing and streamlining the end-to-end user experience to make it convenient, comprehensible, and cost-effective in a way that makes it similar to using other modern digital tools and distinctly dissimilar from the often cumbersome ways in which consumers currently engage with the medical establishment. Specifically, convenience is driven by a user experience that feels more like shopping on Amazon than going to the doctor’s office, comprehensibility is driven by results that are displayed in a colorful and contextual manner akin to using Mint.com to manage one’s finances, and cost-effectiveness comes from knowing the exact price of a test at the very beginning of the process rather than having to predict the complicated implications of your insurance network, deductible, or copay on your final bill.
This successful strategy has helped propel EverlyWell, which now boasts a rapidly growing customer base, increasing sales, and a recent $50M investment round.
EverlyWell’s rise has certainly not been without controversy, with some observers questioning the validity or necessity of some of the available test panels and others decrying the disintermediation of medical professionals from the ordering process. However, particularly in today’s world that increasingly emphasizes personal control over data and health decisions, regulators and traditional medical practitioners would behoove themselves to brace for further digital disruption from EverlyWell and similar direct-to-consumer newcomers.
- Azevedo, Mary Ann. “Austin-Based Digital Health Startup EverlyWell Raises $50M.” Crunchbase News. April 16, 2019. https://news.crunchbase.com/news/female-founded-digital-lab-startup-EverlyWell-raises-50m/.
- Bond, Allison. “A ‘Shark Tank’-funded test for food sensitivity is medically dubious, experts say.” StatNews Business. January 23, 2018. https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/23/EverlyWell-food-sensitivity-test/.
- Carreyrou, John. “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.” Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN: 9781524731663.
- EverlyWell website. Retrieved February 10, 2020. https://www.EverlyWell.com/.
- Hall, Harriet. “EverlyWell: At-Home Lab Tests That Don’t Make Sense.” Science-Based Medicine. June 4, 2019. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/EverlyWell-at-home-lab-tests-that-dont-make-sense/.
- Gross, Elana Lyn. “EverlyWell Rasies $50M To Make At-Home Lab Testing More Accessible.” Forbes. April 16, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2019/04/16/EverlyWell-fundraising/#486e09fb2fab
- Levine, Matt. “The Blood Unicorn Theranos Was Just a Fairy Tale.” Bloomberg Opinion. March 14, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-03-14/theranos-misled-investors-and-consumers-who-used-its-blood-test.