At-home medical testing is booming
Since the pandemic began, Americans have been doing two things in record numbers: staying home due to a spate of recurring lockdown orders and getting diagnostic tests to check for COVID-19 and a host of other detectable maladies.
At the intersection of those trends is at-home medical testing, a relatively young but flourishing niche that has had health care marketers turning their heads—and one whose prominence in the American medical industry has only been amplified by COVID-19.
LetsGetChecked, a leading name in the at-home testing market with offices in New York and Dublin, has experienced a boom in demand, recording 880% year-over-year growth from 2019 since the onset of the pandemic in March.
“I think, ultimately, workforces are going to operate differently forever. Companies have said ‘we’re going to go totally remote,’ and that signals a greater change,” says Peter Foley, the CEO and founder of LetsGetChecked, who estimates that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the growth of the telehealth and at-home testing spaces by five to 10 years.
Interestingly, Foley notes, testing across all categories has grown and due to sustained demand, he’s projecting that at-home medical testing will remain an increasingly prominent part of how the public accesses health care going forward, even as COVID-19 is brought under control.
“We’ve seen continued growth, if not a marginal increase, from what we’d traditionally see” across almost all of LetsGetChecked’s testing options, Foley adds.
First national campaign
In light of LetsGetChecked’s banner year, the company decided to launch its first-ever national ad campaign in the U.S. last week, which it says is also the first such marketing push from a health testing company on a nationwide scale.
Graduating from previous advertising strategies, which have mainly revolved around content on social and digital channels in Europe, the company tapped British agency VCCP to create a video campaign titled “Know Your Health, Know Yourself,” highlighting a range of its offerings that can detect everything from coronavirus to chlamydia.
The ad, cut into 15- and 30-second variants, will air on several U.S. broadcast networks as well as streaming platforms including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire through the end of the year.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it “sees the public health value” in expanding access to COVID-19 tests, including those relying on home collection, but at the time it cautioned consumers against potentially fraudulent coronavirus testing resources on the market.
However, as soon as the FDA gave the green light to begin distributing such products, at-home COVID-19 tests—which use consumer-collected mucus or saliva samples, depending on the type—proliferated the market. There are currently eight companies in the U.S. selling home testing kits for the virus, including LetsGetChecked, with the products ranging in price from $100 to $150.
But even if various companies that offer authorized do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests ignore the demand they’ve seen for that product, business can still be categorized as booming.
Demand has doubled
For Everlywell, another major player in the at-home testing market, coronavirus tests have been only a “novel” part of their business. The Austin, Texas-based company’s year-over-year consumer demand has doubled for at least 75% of its tests, which include products to detect vitamin deficiencies, Lyme disease and a range of sexually transmitted diseases, among other ailments.
“I get this question a lot about what it’s been like to ‘pivot’ our business to provide coronavirus testing. In reality, there was no pivot,” says Jenifer Dasho, chief marketing officer for Everlywell, whose tests have uniformly been flying off the shelves. (In the nine months since the pandemic’s severity became clear in the U.S., Everlywell has shipped half a million coronavirus tests, Dasho says—roughly equal to the total number of customers the company had during its first four years of operation.)
While its tests have maintained solid growth this year, one particular category caught the company’s eye at the outset of the pandemic: tests for sexually transmitted diseases, which were up to 400% more in demand than they were in 2019. At that same time, fertility test demand was up 233% year-over-year.
Emphasis on sexual health
After conducting some proprietary research in April, Everlywell found that roughly one in four Americans broke quarantine to “hook up,” while 15% of respondents reported sleeping with a roommate.
With a corporate emphasis on sexual health and its research in mind, Everlywell tapped “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness to serve as the company’s first celebrity ambassador in September, partnering with him for a series of social, digital and streaming ads for Sexual Health Awareness Month. (Last year, Van Ness, 33, revealed he’s been HIV positive since age 25.)
Making the most of their partnership, Everlywell sent Van Ness a few of its tests to try out on camera and also used him to launch Current, a subscription-based sexual health testing service where members can receive one STD test of their choice per month.
“A few months ago, most people weren’t aware that there are lab tests you can order yourself and use at home. Now, because of COVID-19, more people are aware this is an option,” Dasho says.