New innovators: LetsGetChecked

LetsGetChecked enables fast and private self-testing for a number of health problems

In this cyber age when everything from filing tax returns to finding a life partner can be done online, healthcare professional Peter Foley couldn't understand why people were still queuing in doctors' surgeries and hospitals for diagnostic tests.

Foley believed there had to be an easier way and 18 months ago set about creating an online platform that could support home testing for a range of possible illnesses.

The result is the newly launched LetsGetChecked which enables fast and private self-testing for a number of health problems including STDs and HPV (human papillomavirus) which is implicated in cervical cancer. A test for prostate cancer is also available while the launch of tests for the BRCA gene (implicated in breast cancer) and bowel cancer are imminent.

Foley is a lawyer by profession who tried his hand at corporate banking before moving into healthcare where he saw at first hand the burden testing puts on hospitals. (It also isn’t much fun for those who have to wait in line.) “I felt it had to be possible to remove some testing activity from the overstretched hospital system while also making the process smoother for the general public,” he says.

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The LetsGetChecked platform links customers directly with laboratories and allows them order a kit online and return either a finger prick (blood) or urine sample in a prepaid envelope. Results are accessed online. The company has also linked up with more than 100 pharmacies around Ireland that will perform the tests for those not keen on DIY.

Foley hopes that home testing will encourage people to health check themselves sooner. “We have all witnessed the effects of cancer and the consequences of late diagnoses,” he says. “The problem is that most people only get tested when they become symptomatic and that can be the difference between stage one versus stage four cancer. HPV, bowel and prostate cancer screening are invaluable in providing early warning of these diseases. However, if a person is not presenting with symptoms it is difficult to justify time off work to attend a clinic or GP for a test. With our system everything happens through our platform and if a customer tests positive, our nursing support team will make contact by phone and provide a same-day consultation.”

Foley says LetsGetChecked has global potential and the platform is already operating in mainland Europe and the US. To date Foley has put about €80,000 of his own money into the venture and the company has secured €350,000 in seed capital. It is now looking to raise additional funds to finance international expansion and growth. The company employs five people and this is set to rise.

“The key benefit to online sales is the ability to scale and enter multiple markets through a relatively painless localisation exercise,” Foley says. “We are already working with a number of major international laboratories [serology, molecular and genetic testing] and can access labs in different markets as required. They send out the tests on our behalf and the results are usually available within two days.”

The company’s first product was an STD test (€50) that Foley says delivered proof of concept very quickly.

“The uptake on the tests was rapid and it wasn’t just ‘young’ people buying them,” he says. The kit was launched six months ago and more than 1,000 have been sold to date.

“What’s unique about LetsGetChecked at consumer level is our combined online and retail approach. Through the retail channel you get social verification.

“Online is the opposite, offering convenience and anonymity. In terms of our competition, there are two main players. Both have their own labs and as such are constrained by their size. We will use multiple labs in different locations so we won’t have any capacity issues,” says Foley who adds that tests for fertility problems and lifestyle issues are also on the way.

– OLIVE KEOGH