Switch Health : Care From Anywhere

Callam WallerLucy Pilgrim
Callam Waller - Head of North American Operations Lucy Pilgrim - Deputy Head of Editorial
Home blood DNA COVID-19 test
Highlights
  • Following the pandemic, many unique opportunities began to emerge for Switch Health as the advantages of its products were more greatly recognized.
  • A key part of Switch Health’s success lies in its ability to address the most pressing issues facing the healthcare industry and its many indirect participants in a patient-centric manner.
  • Switch Health has also invested into blood testing and how this could be conducted successfully at home through dried blood spots.
  • "Our overarching concept stems from the question of – what if the simple task of a blood draw appointment, which can be unnecessarily cumbersome, could be as easy as your last best digital experience?" says Marc Thomson, CEO, Switch Health.

Facilitating accessible healthcare across Canada by leveraging modern-day technological conveniences, we revisit Switch Health, whose CEO, Marc Thomson, enlightens us on its latest innovations.

CARE FROM ANYWHERE

Marc Thomson’s creative flair and eye for identifying patients’ needs are some of the key attributes that led to his role as CEO of Switch Health.  

Thomson ambitiously began his career journey in marketing, working with a number of notable advertising firms, specifically operating in the direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sectors in the telecommunications (telecoms) industry.  

Equipped with invaluable knowledge and experience, he began to experiment in entrepreneurship along with his partners. In 2017, after multiple business barriers, Switch Health rose to fruition as it began to gain traction in diabetes treatment and testing.   

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Switch Health conceptualized the idea of decentralized collection kits. Following the pandemic and the widespread use of remote testing, many unique opportunities began to emerge for the company as the advantages of its products were more greatly recognized.   

With its tremendous work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Switch Health was able to significantly grow its research and technology capabilities, ultimately providing the opportunity for the business to become a vertically integrated entity through the acquisition of an established medical laboratory in Ontario, where it still operates today.  

PATIENTS’ BEST DIGITAL EXPERIENCE

A key part of Switch Health’s success lies in its ability to address the most pressing issues facing the healthcare industry and its many indirect participants in a patient-centric manner.  

The Canadian healthcare sector differs from its US counterpart in regard to patient acquisition and the marketing of medical organizations. Therefore, at the time of its establishment, Switch Health differed from other businesses in its field with a focus on both laboratory and at-home testing.  

Beyond the D2C opportunities, the company’s innovative take on specimen collection and traditional testing lends itself well to remote workplaces looking to enhance healthcare options for their employees, therefore decreasing workplace absenteeism to seek medical attention.  

For clinical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies, Switch Health’s product offering facilitates broader reach and faster turnaround times in clinical trials for approvals and ongoing evaluation. 

Meanwhile, its huge investments in the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) have elevated the company in recent years, uniquely presenting its patients with unmatched privacy and autonomy by leveraging digital delivery and hassle-free transactions.  

“Our overarching concept stems from the question of – what if the simple task of a blood draw appointment, which can be unnecessarily cumbersome, could be as easy as your last best digital experience?” Thomson shares.  

Switch Health’s methods would significantly cut down the time to visit a physician’s office for specimen collection and, in some cases, eliminate it all together. Earlier detection of certain ailments could lead to improved patient outcomes with lower costs to healthcare systems and insurers, and reduce time away from the workplace. 

In today’s digital world, those living in Tier 1, 2, or 3 markets can get almost anything delivered within a very short timeframe. Switch Health therefore strives to utilise this modern, everyday retail concept for healthcare, transforming the lives of millions across the country.  

“Instead of taking two days to get a booking for a blood draw, what if it was almost instantaneous, with a kit delivered to your door within an hour? Depending on where you’re located, you can then ship it back via the same method after you’ve completed the test,” he adds.  

As such, Switch Health centers around marrying individuals’ best digital experience with the ultimate healthcare UI and UX to ease the patient journey.  

Our overarching concept stems from the question of – what if the simple task of a blood draw appointment, which can be unnecessarily cumbersome, could be as easy as your last best digital experience?”

Marc Thomson, CEO, Switch Health
Young scientists conducting research

PRIVATE PROACTIVE HEALTHCARE

The company expertly navigates the pressures between private and public healthcare, with the growing difficulty of regulatory restriction putting pressure on the latter and ultimately slowing down critical innovative processes.  

On the other hand, private healthcare institutions suffer from the encouragement of certain testing or healthcare types that may not be completely necessary but demonstrate profitability and progress on the bottom line.  

With this in mind, Thomson is happy to witness a growing cultural acceptance of what he calls ‘private proactive healthcare’ which has begun to emerge in the Canadian healthcare industry. The company has seen significant uptake in this space from large employers, many of whom have remote work sites that require flexible healthcare options. Other significant clients include insurance and pharmaceutical businesses looking for alternatives to in-person visits. 

“We are playing on the periphery of these two actors, where we integrate with public systems but also offer private testing and other additions to the public testing space for at-home convenience; all while underpinning our testing options in true medical and scientific research and necessity.”  

COMBATING GEOGRAPHICAL BARRIERS

Since last speaking to Switch Health 18 months ago, the company has majorly progressed its healthcare testing technology.  

Most significantly, the launch of the human papillomavirus (HPV) collection kits was one of the first pivotal changes in the organization.  

“It was a pivotal moment in which we were proud to be building something for a community,” Thomson expresses.  

Switch Health’s HPV collection kits provide an attractive alternative as they are free of in-person engagement and far less invasive than other more conventional testing methods for cervical screening.  

Additionally, the HPV tests have been very successful in rural and remote areas, having a meaningful impact on women as they experience a renewed sense of privacy and convenience in comparison to standardized testing. Larger customers include remote community clinics in various provinces as well as private sector employers who want to make convenient testing available for employees. 

In North Ontario, for example, the company supports remote areas that don’t have the scale or population to warrant the implementation of core lab equipment and specialty testing.  

“Communities in these regions are far from urban markets, so we send them collection devices that they can ship back to us. This means that we are able to provide cervical screening in these regions and detect HPV before it becomes cervical cancer, which is key,” outlines Thomson.  

“Knowing that we are making a measurable, impactful difference to communities that may not have had access to this kind of support previously is why we are in business,” he adds.   

LED BY THOUGHTFUL RESEARCH

Following the launch of Switch Health’s HPV collection kit, a substantial level of R&D was put into other test types and collection modalities. 

Setting the tone for the company’s operations going forward, Switch Health further invested research into blood testing and how this could be conducted successfully at home through dried blood spots.  

As part of its research, the organization specifically analyzed dried blood spot collections in comparison to an in-person blood draw for a variety of analytes.  

One such analyte that was successfully validated at Switch Health’s Bio-Test Laboratory was hemoglobin A1C. This dried blood spot test can be ordered online for those with diabetes or individuals who wish to know more about their metabolic health.  

The patient simply uses the provided lancets to prick their finger and draw blood onto the blood spot card prior to sending it back to the lab. The ease in which the test can be completed at home has proven to transform the lives of those with diabetes who regularly use Switch Health’s hemoglobin A1C blood test. 

Additionally, as part of its R&D, the company is currently wrapping up research using microtainers for hormone testing.  

Switch Health is also hoping to usher in a new era for the business with a female-focused fertility suite.  

“We are in the final stages of developing a microtainer test to be used at home which tests the levels of anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) test, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin – the four analytes that indicate a woman’s fertility status,” says Thomson.  

As a result, women can have a greater understanding of their fertility and seek help if test results are not favorable.  

Switch Health continues to expand its fertility R&D for both females and males, laying the foundation for the next phase of the business. The company intends to offer microtainer and dried blood specimen collection methods to clinical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies to expand the scope of human trials for various medications seeking approval.  

All samples are processed through validated methods at Bio-Test Laboratory in Ottawa. As the pharmaceutical sector looks to expand the diversity of individual patients and increase patient enrolment in trials, Switch Health could provide a simple solution to expedite this essential research work. 

Rapid COVID-19 test

DEPENDABLE DELIVERY

As the company continues to grow, its focus lies in expanding its at-home kit offering as well as its laboratory technology capabilities.  

Switch Health’s Bio-Test Laboratory has been operating and servicing Ontario for over 50 years. With the uptake in the company’s decentralized collection kits nationwide, the business is looking to scale its laboratory technology capabilities even further.  

Over the next five years, Switch Health strives to continue to expand its core business offerings and its current testing capabilities to provide better care to Canadian individuals and pharmaceutical companies looking to develop the therapeutics available in the country.  

One key to this short to medium-term progression is a stable supply chain network. Indeed, robust and reliable supplier partnerships are not just necessary to the success of Switch Health, but the laboratory sector as a whole.  

The company sources items globally for its medical devices and collection kits. As such, Switch Health is blessed to have solid logistics partners and providers who have repeatedly proved their reliability.  

“We had the ability to test out our providers during the pandemic, as we were able to see who could really handle the extra pressure on their business and get things done. All our partners who stuck with us during this process still work with us today,” Thomson expands.  

“Switch Health and the Bio-Test Laboratory actively work with larger customers to rapidly provide customized solutions to their needs while adhering to the highest standards of medical validity and regulatory requirements.” 

PAVING THE WAY

The company continues to undertake key R&D at its laboratory to unlock new test and collection types which would ultimately lead to more examinations being completed in the comfort of patients’ homes.  

Switch Health will also continue to launch a greater amount of valuable screening tests. For instance, the company is currently developing an at-home test for oral forms of HPV, as recent findings suggest that throat HPV is one of the fastest-growing diseases in men.  

Although the business recognizes that there are limits to providing home diagnostic collection kits, Switch Health strongly believes that providing patients with options outside of traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare is vital and a step in the right direction.  

“It’s a lofty goal, but if you aim somewhere, even if you get 50 percent of the way there, that’s still an achievement,” Thomson proudly concludes.

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By Callam Waller Head of North American Operations
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Callam connects with c-suite executives, healthcare professionals, and frontline executives as part of his role in sourcing and showcasing innovation and corporate success across the North American healthcare sector.
By Lucy Pilgrim Deputy Head of Editorial
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Lucy Pilgrim is an in-house writer for Healthcare Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.