Home telehealth and testing companies pivot to mail-in coronavirus tests

As manufacturers nationwide work to catch up to the skyrocketing demand for coronavirus diagnostics and supplies—and broaden access while limiting person-to-person contact, such as with drive-thru testing—companies are looking next to provide at-home COVID-19 exams through the mail.  

Home health and wellness testing company Everlywell announced plans to ship personal collection kits to the public next week, combined with a telehealth consultation and diagnosis. 

An initial supply of 30,000 tests is slated to be made available March 23. Everlywell said they should be requested online by people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, after which users will overnight mail their swabs to the company’s lab testing partners.

"As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues to worsen with community spread across the United States, there is an unmet medical need to broaden the access to testing for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in a responsible manner to complement and help alleviate the potential overload on healthcare systems and healthcare providers if testing was only available in the limited clinical setting," said Everlywell’s chief medical and scientific officer, Frank Ong.

The test will cost $135, which the company says will provide no profit and will be covered by participating health savings account providers. Positive results will be communicated as mandated to federal and state health agencies.

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Meanwhile, women’s and sexual health-focused telehealth startup Nurx said it is developing its own mail-in coronavirus test in partnership with service provider Molecular Testing Labs.

“Allowing people to take a COVID-19 test remotely can be a valuable strategy for containing the virus because it decreases the risk of exposure for both patients and in-person healthcare providers, while also decreasing the strain on brick-and-mortar healthcare services,” the company said in a blog post.  

Last August, Nurx raised $52 million in a series C round—with backing from Kleiner Perkins' Digital Growth Fund, Union Square Ventures, Reproductive Health Investors Alliance, Dreamers VC, Lowercase Capital, Y Combinator and Triple Point Capital—as an online provider of contraception, tests and other health needs.

Earlier this month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it would pivot resources from a previously supported influenza surveillance project to deliver coronavirus self-test swabs to homes in the Seattle area. Those samples would then be mailed to the University of Washington for analysis.