The DIY (Diagnose it Yourself) Healthcare Revolution

In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a rule easing access to hearing aids for millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss. Now, major pharmacy retailers are finally rolling out over-the-counter hearing aids to the masses, allowing people to purchase audio-enhancing devices without an in-person medical exam, prescription, or professional fitting.

Separately, Democratic lawmakers have intensified calls for the FDA to make oral contraceptives available without a prescription after the Supreme Court’s recent overturn of Roe v Wade. As a result, FDA advisers planned to meet on Nov. 18 (update: the meeting has since been postponed) to review the application for HRA Pharma’s Opill to be sold over the counter for the first time.

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

While OTC hearing aids and birth control pills may seem like isolated examples of progress in healthcare, these recent advancements are part of a larger pattern of events that ultimately depict a fundamental transformation in how people take care of their bodies — with autonomy. A trend that I am calling DIY (Diagnose it Yourself) Healthcare.

With DIY Healthcare, consumers are increasingly empowered to make decisions about their health and seek solutions to solve their problems without needing to see a doctor, or at the very least, without seeing one in person or synchronously.

Examples of DIY Healthcare

At-home testing is on the rise, not only for COVID but also for vitamin deficiencies, STIs, Lyme disease, thyroid function, hormone imbalance, menopause detection, metabolic health, gut health, personalized nutrition, skin issues, propensity to conceive, and more.

Bio-tracking devices such as smartwatches and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are providing people with data about their heart rate variability, sugar intake, stress, sleep, steps, ovulation, and more— many with companion apps for actionable insights and suggestions on ways to improve one’s health. Hormone tests are helping women better understand their bodies and conceive more effectively. And new companies such as Sequencing — a recent Lerer Hippeau investment — are giving users the ability to obtain and analyze their individual DNA sequence, all from the comfort of their homes.

Screenshot taken from https://sequencing.com/

Transforming the Future of Health

This new level of personalized data and insights is more than just informative, it’s transformative — in the sense that learnings derived are typically actionable and can prevent further medical issues or diseases. At-home diagnostics have empowered people to make better decisions about their health, enact change, and, ultimately, improve their overall quality of life.

As DIY healthcare increases in popularity, businesses will continue to collect data on the efficacy of their products and how they can prevent other costly medical problems down the line. These evidence-based findings will inevitably increase the likelihood of diagnostics being reimbursable by insurance and perhaps even change the standard of care within certain health verticals.

Market Outlook

According to a recent industry report by BioSpace, the at-home diagnostics market size was valued over $5.4 Bn in 2020 and is expected to reach $8.5 Bn by 2030, expanding at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2021 to 2030.

As I regularly speak to founders in the DIY Healthcare space, I am beginning to notice that their go-to-market strategies mimic those of founders leading more traditional “telehealth” companies. Many plan to launch with DTC business models to validate their product-market fit before eventually expanding to employers, distributing through pharmacy chains, and ideally, securing full or partial insurance coverage.

Early-stage menopause hormone test company Mina Health is one example of a business employing this strategy. Currently, insurance does not cover AMH assay labs like those offered by Mina Health, regardless if they are conducted at home or in a doctor’s office. This type of care gap lends itself nicely to a DIY healthcare solution, especially one that gives half the population access to data that can help prepare them for one of the most intense biological transformations of their lives — menopause. A better understanding of a woman’s unique menopause journey enables Mina Health to recommend (and prescribe) treatments that can prevent severe symptoms down the line, another revenue stream. Mina Health kits are already being offered online and in select CVS retail locations.

Screenshot from Mina Health’s pre-seed investor deck

Side note: As of publishing this article, Mina Health is raising a Pre-Seed round.

Juna, an early-stage STD test kit company, is another business employing this strategy. The company is starting grassroots, creating informal partnerships with IFCs (Interfraternity Councils) and PHAs (Panhellenic Associations) as a way to market to Greek organizations on college campuses. The long-term goal, however, is to forge partnerships with major universities’ health departments and become the go-to STD testing service on campuses and the most widely recognized sexual health brand among young people.

Juna hopes to remove the stigma around sexual health by empowering students to test themselves more regularly — an underlying theme of the DIY healthcare movement. Removing the embarrassment and inconvenience of needing to go into an office and “speak with an adult” allows students to take matters into their own hands and test for STDs more frequently. This new behavior inevitably shifts issues-based treatment into preventative care and encourages more regular dialogue around sexual health and information sharing with sexual partners.

Startups aren’t the only businesses cashing in on the DIY Healthcare trend.

Bringing testing to the masses, CVS recently announced a partnership with ixlayer, a digital diagnostic at-home testing company, to produce four over-the-counter self-diagnostic tests, which will be available in CVS stores later this fall.

CVS Health partners with startup ixlayer for digital diagnostics. Image via ixlayer

What’s Next?

Although I’ve only dipped my toe into DIY Healthcare as a consumer (S/O to Veracity’s Skin & Health test for finally giving me answers about my acne), as an investor, it is evident that the category is gaining steam across verticals.

Today, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults report using some form of wearable device or activity tracker (approximately twice that of 2015), and 82 percent report willingness to share health data with providers in exchange for more personalized services. Experts predict that 400 million smartwatches will be sold globally each year by 2026, doubling those sold in 2020.

Note: Percentage includes those who say they are somewhat or very willing; Data: Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society; Image created by Axios Visuals via Axios Vitals (Aug. 11, 2022 issue)

Given the markedly high user interest and willingness to participate in data collection and health tracking, I am excited to see this trend continue to unfold in the startup sector as more companies (1) build businesses around collecting/sharing data in exchange for bespoke recommendations and (2) develop new diagnostic tests to improve outcomes across additional health verticals.

It will also be interesting to see how these businesses look to partner with insurance companies after validating improved outcomes. I imagine many will consider secondary revenue streams around sharing anonymized information for actuarial purposes (so payers can more accurately calculate insurance risks and premiums).

The DIY Healthcare Landscape

Below is a high-level overview of the DIY Healthcare landscape, which demonstrates the breadth of people’s ability to take their health into their own hands at present. All businesses below make health insights possible through either a questionnaire, wearable device, urine sample, blood sample, saliva sample, or a cheek/nose swab.

DIY Healthcare Landscape by Jess Schram

What is your favorite DIY Healthcare company, and how do you think the category will expand further? Did I miss your business in my landscape overview above? Drop a comment to keep the conversation going. I’d love to hear from you.

This article does not reflect Swiftarc Ventures’ plans to invest in the DIY Healthcare space nor do I have a professional affiliation with any of the companies mentioned above. All opinions and views expressed are my own and are current as of the date of this writing. My content is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute or imply endorsement of any third party’s products or services, nor should it be considered investment advice.

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Jess Schram

Health & Wellness Investor @Swiftarc Ventures, formerly at 14W and Lerer Hippeau. All thoughts are my own.