As the U.S. struggles to provide enough coronavirus testing kits for medical professionals, digital health company, Everlywell, is now offering at-home testing kits for COVID-19. Anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus will also receive a free phone consultation with an independent board-certified physician.
The company’s initial batch of 30,000 COVID-19 diagnostic kits has been allocated to healthcare workers on the frontlines to ensure they have the resources they need to stay safe… so they can ultimately keep the rest of us safe. However, Everlywell is partnering with several COVID-19 labs in order to scale their coronavirus testing and diagnosis capacity to 250,000 people weekly. Once that happens, the kits will be available for individuals as well.
It could take several weeks (maybe months) to reach this aggressive goal, as testing labs (both government and private) face the same challenge… a worldwide shortage of ‘nasopharyngeal swabs’, which are those long wooden q-tips used to swab the back of your nose and throat.
In this article
- Can you trust the results?
- How much do the kits cost?
- How to use the coronavirus testing kit
- Should you self-test for the coronavirus?
- Who is Everlywell?
Can you trust the results?
Everlywell’s COVID-19 kit is what’s known as a “real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction” (rRT -PCR) test. The test works by looking for the presence or absence of unique genomic markers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And for context, SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is what causes the “Coronavirus Disease 2019” (COVID-19).
Got all that? Don’t worry, I had to read it a few times before it sunk in too.
Everlywell and their COVID-19 laboratory partners are all operating under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) guidelines issued by the FDA. And the FDA has already reviewed the validation data and reporting for each of Everlywell’s lab partners under the EUA framework.
This rTT-PCR test collects nasopharyngeal swab and saliva samples. This methodology is recommended by the CDC and is currently used by the majority of hospitals for COVID-19 diagnostic testing today.
What about false positives?
Your test results will tell you whether or not you have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus. If positive, it is highly likely you have COVID-19. However, there is a small chance the positive test result is wrong.
Everlywell provides free phone consults with a board-certified physician, who will ask about your medical history and symptoms. Based on your discussion and test results, your healthcare professional will discuss ways to best manage your symptoms and limit your exposure to minimize spread and keep others safe.
How much do the kits cost?
Everlywell is hoping to eventually provide the kits for free via a potential government aid package. But for now, they cost $135 each, which you can submit for reimbursement through participating HSA/FSA benefit programs. This pricing only covers their cost and nothing more — Everlywell does not make a profit on this kit!!
The kits are currently available in 47 states. Unfortunately, government restrictions in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island prohibit at-home testing.
How to use the coronavirus testing kit
If you’ve ever ordered a kit from Everlywell to test your cholesterol or food sensitivities (among others), then you already know how easy they make it.
The only difference between this coronavirus kit and the company’s other testing kits is that you’ll need to answer some qualifying questions about your symptoms and risk factors before they will approve your order. Since kits are still in short supply in the US, doctors simply need to rule out other lung-related diseases before they can prescribe the kit.
And yes, a doctor does need to prescribe the test… but you don’t have to visit or even speak to one on the phone. Instead, your answers will be reviewed by a clinician from the PWNHealth network and, using criteria established by the CDC, will quickly determine your eligibility.
If you qualify for coronavirus testing, the physician will prescribe your test and Everlywell will get the ok to ship it.
It seems likely this required eligibility could change in a few weeks, once Everlywell (and other private testing companies) are able to produce a higher volume of kits to serve the wider population. Cross your fingers and stay tuned for updates!
Here’s how the COVID-19 test works:
- Request your COVID-19 kit online and answer a few screening questions. Your kit will arrive in a day or so and will include:
- The nasopharyngeal swab plus a collection tube for a saliva/sputum sample.
- Special packing materials to ensure your sample is shipped back to the lab safely (per CDC guidelines) and won’t cause undue risk to mail couriers.
- Overnight FedEx shipping labels.
- Collect your samples following the printed instructions found in your kit or by watching this video.
- Seal everything in their safe packaging, and pop it in a FedEx drop-box the same day as you collect. Sending your sample back on the same day as the collection is important because samples are generally stable for 4 days.
- Your sample will be professionally tested by labs that are certified and approved for COVID-19 diagnostics.
- Within 48 hours from the time the lab receives your samples, you will receive an email with a link to your private, secure results. (Everlywell is HIPPA compliant.)
- If you test positive for the coronavirus, you will also be offered a free phone consultation with an independent board-certified physician.
COVID-19 is a reportable disease so, by mandate, any positive test results will be shared with the CDC and necessary federal and state public health reporting authorities.
** Employers / HR teams: You can also partner with Everlywell for employee screenings… once they’re able to ramp up.
Our team has been working around the clock with top scientists and laboratories in the nation to develop a test that we will make available at the lowest price possible while covering our costs, at no profit to the company. We have also reached out to government and public health officials to explore possibilities to provide it for free.
– Julia Cheek, Everlywell founder & CEO
Should you self-test for the coronavirus?
In a word, yes – you should consider self-testing for the coronavirus. At-home test kits are impactful for a few key reasons:
- As of this writing, COVID-19 tests are scarce, so ANY increase in availability is critical… and even Everlywell’s initial offering of 30,000 kits provides a significant increase in overall testing capabilities in the US, which is currently lacking.
- While other private labs are developing COVID-19 collection kits for medical professionals, Everlywell is broadening access by offering them directly to consumers. This means you don’t have to leave your home to get tested. If you’re feeling sick, you can stay in bed. If you’re not feeling sick (and assuming test kit production has thoroughly ramped up), you won’t have to risk exposure by visiting a hospital or waiting in line (for hours) in your car for a drive-thru test.
- As the virus continues to put incredible stress (physical, emotional, and otherwise) on our healthcare providers – as well as overburden our healthcare system as a whole – the ability to self-test outside a clinical setting is expected to help relieve some of the overload.
- One testing experiment in a small town in Italy found that more than 50% of the people that tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic. When we feel well, it’s easy to think that it’s ok to just run to the coffee shop or have a few friends over for dinner. Unfortunately, it’s not. Easy access to at-home testing will inform and (hopefully) encourage those who are unknowingly carrying this highly infectious disease to self-quarantine and act more responsibly, if they aren’t already doing so.
Who is Everlywell?
Everlywell is a national leader of in-home collection kits with certified lab testing. Their process is easy, their kits are affordable, and their lab reports are personalized, insightful, and actionable.
All lab results are reviewed by an independent board-certified physician and returned (digitally and securely) within days of receiving your sample. Pricing starts at $39 and most kits are covered by Flexible Spending (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA).