According to present data available globally, the number of infectious diseases is rising rapidly due to various environmental, biological, and other related factors. In order to curb its transmission and break the chain at the initial stages of its incidence, the key is to find out the problem. And this is clearly possible if methods of diagnosis, that is, the testing kits and services, are readily available to all without the barriers of cost, access, and quality.
This problem has been rightly recognized by Molecular Testing Labs, which is empowering lives on a molecular level with its well-calibrated approach of in-house diagnostic kits and better decision-based healthcare for everyone. As per a recent analysis of over 5,000 patients, about 85 percent preferred self-collected testing when given the option, compared to the traditional in-person collection. With this chain of changing needs of the patient, Molecular Testing Labs is efficiently fulfilling this demand by its philosophy of not attempting to transform healthcare but by trying to supplement testing and care by meeting patients right where they are.
The Lab’s Chief Commercial Officer – James York is leading the lab’s mission to provide accessible and innovative laboratory solutions through collaborative partnerships with payors, private healthcare institutions, universities, and public health organizations. His direction, along with the team’s efforts has helped the lab revolutionize access to convenient and affordable testing and has designed a proprietary information system capable of monitoring patient specimens for adherence to medical testing policies.
In addition to traditional labs, they have pioneered unique distribution and specimen collection methods that open access to medical testing where geographic, financial, and stigma barriers once created gaps in care.
Through the interview highlights below, let us read more about their unique approaches to molecular testing!
James, please brief us about Molecular Testing Labs and, its inception.
Molecular Testing Labs was founded in 2011 with a mission to expand access to lab diagnoses and lab diagnostics. In order to get the lab results needed to receive treatment for illness, limited access to in-person lab facilities and cost were posing as significant and well-known barriers for many patients to receive quality care.
Molecular Testing Labs was all set to overcome that challenge.
Kindly tell us about you and your team’s journey at Molecular Testing Labs. What is its vision?
Having worked together with the other co-founders in various roles for the past 30 years, we noticed there was a trend towards telemedicine which addressed many of these barriers – but the lack of at-home, self-collect lab diagnostics and testing was a gap in the telehealth-based “remote continuum” of care.
With Molecular Testing Labs, we had the vision to allow patients to collect samples outside of the clinical setting, and we refined technology and processes allowing labs to prepare and process samples without the requirement of an in-person visit to a lab.
These developments facilitated more timely health screenings, improved access to care, and alleviated barriers like the social stigma and medical mistrust that inhibit testing, as well as the geographic and logistical barriers posed by distance from a testing center or time required to be away from work or family.
How is advancing technology in the field helping the growth of the organization?
Advancing technology to remove barriers to healthy outcomes is at the crux of what we do at Molecular Testing Labs.
Innovation is not just rooted in science and technology, but also around third-party enterprises, processes and the platforms delivering care, particularly in telemedicine and telehealth.
As healthcare and diagnostics shift out of brick-and-mortar settings, evolving solutions, like our self-collected specimen testing, allow for better outcomes because we meet people where they are – physically, and in terms of their readiness for testing.
The spread of infectious diseases has increased, especially post the pandemic. How is your organization breaking this chain and ensuring individual and societal health?
Testing is key to identifying infectious diseases and curbing their spread.
The more we can do to increase testing, the more likely we are to prevent global outbreaks. Right now, outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also witnessing another epidemic of STIs, and as rates of infection climb across the country, testing for STI’s is decreasing. Interrupting forward transmission involves increased access to testing.
We need renewed efforts to remove barriers to testing to tackle infectious disease. In the case of STI’s, which have increased by as much as 1000% in the past 2 years, the barriers to testing are well documented.
Patients don’t have the time or money to regularly visit a lab or clinical setting in person to get tested, and even for those who do, stigma limits access, as many individuals do not feel comfortable seeking services in conventional brick-and-mortar settings such as STD Clinics – all the while such clinics diminish in number and capacity to serve.
At Molecular, we are working to break this chain by allowing at-home testing for STIs that individuals can access easily and affordably, by collecting and submitting specimens remotely for diagnosis, overcoming a serious barrier to curbing the spread of infectious disease.
What are the key products and services that Molecular Testing Labs is providing and how it is impacting the concerned demographic?
With our home-based self-collected specimen service, we are able to provide testing to communities that have a hard time getting tested, or for people who feel a social stigma around accessing conventional testing sites.
We can stop the spread of infectious disease and build health equity by assuring everyone has access to diagnostic tests. Our goal is to reduce as many barriers as we can to allow people to take ownership of their health and find real solutions without geographic, financial, or social constraints.
Highlighting the importance of preventive care, how has your Lab spreading awareness regarding this, and what has been its impact so far?
Outside of helping provide more preventative care through our services, we partner with clinics, health organizations, local governments, researchers and others to spread as much awareness and increase visibility on the importance of preventive care and of testing.
Molecular has developed solutions that are one of the components of preventative care engagement and participation: Access to testing.
Through other key initiatives, Molecular works with third parties to leverage awareness of the importance of preventative, and for novel practice/care solutions, Molecular’s testing can facilitate engagement.
Examples include Molecular’s partnering with the leading telehealth providers of HIV PrEP in a manner that has vastly improved access and retention to this USPSTF Grade A preventative initiative, helping to contribute to best practices along the way.
Also, Molecular has developed a unique approach to hepatitis C screening that seeks to minimize loss to follow-up in testing, a major impediment to clinical engagement, while increasing the potential for public health surveillance.
As a guiding light, could you please enlighten us on how you turned the challenges into opportunities?
One of the main challenges we face is that there are people suffering from chronic disease and transmitted infections who have never been identified through screening.
This challenge is amplified by the massive gap of available testing opportunities for those who are marginalized, stigmatized, un-insured/under-insured, and/or who lack access to health education around the need for screening.
The opportunity we recognized is to create equitable, accessible testing programs that allow for privacy and transparent pricing. Through partnerships with other like-minded organizations, we create an experience that allows for clinician oversight, linkage to care, upfront awareness of costs, and privacy for the testing and results disclosure processes.
As an experienced leader, what advice would you like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who wish to venture into the competitive industry that you are serving?
My primary advice to folks trying to enter this market is to have a deep passion for the problem you are trying to solve. In our case, we had to determine if we were attempting to transform or complement traditional healthcare.
Without a deep passion and concern for health-compromised individuals you may find it difficult to run a business. Success in this space requires commitment to passion and ability to take risks that are different than other possible healthcare ventures.
My secondary advice is to surround yourself with others who can help drive the mission.
Being different in healthcare requires a team that can unify on a common goal while being diverse in their approach.
What are the future goals of Molecular Testing Labs? How does it envision scaling up its operations and reach in 2022 and beyond?
We are currently undergoing a rapid expansion, having recently just brought on a new CFO and others in key leadership roles. In the next year and beyond, we hope to continue to accelerate our growth and impact.
Our self-collected infectious diseases tests have supported access to HIV PrEP for nearly 15 percent of all U.S. patients, including nearly a third of such patients under 25 years of age.
There remains outsized demand for our innovative testing products, and if we are successful in scaling this form of testing beyond current levels, we are confident testing for infectious diseases will increase, rates of infectious disease transmission will fall in key categories, and the American population will be much healthier as a result.
Partnerships in Spotlight
In response to a growing STI crisis in the state, the Washington Department of Health partners with Molecular to empower community-based organizations. Their partners can order home testing kits for patients unable to come in for testing.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Molecular has worked closely with the Governor’s office and the Department of Health to offer PCR testing with rapid turnaround times to high-risk settings, including nursing homes.