In just eight months, Iggbo claims to have 4,000 phlebotomists participating and is now operating in 18 states
Even as Uber and Lyft are bringing a new business model to the taxicab business, a group of entrepreneurs in Virginia want to do the same thing to the phlebotomy services offered by clinical laboratories. Since launching this service in January, the new phlebotomy company operates in 18 states.
The company is called Iggbo. It describes itself as an on-demand anytime/anywhere blood draw service and hopes to streamline the way blood samples move from patients to medical laboratories as the start-up looks to revolutionize phlebotomy the way Uber disrupted taxi service.
Based in Richmond, VA, Iggbo is introducing the sharing economy to the laboratory test collection process, a move that could benefit independent clinical laboratories and pathology groups that join Iggbo’s growing network of labs and independent phlebotomists.
“This is an exciting time for healthcare thanks to new technologies and a talented on-demand workforce,” stated Nuno Valentine, Iggbo’s CEO and Co-founder, in an interview with the financial news analysis service StreetInsider.com. “Historically there has been a disconnect between the labor—the phlebotomists who draw a patient’s blood—and the demand from physicians who are ordering the tests. As a result, roughly one-third of provider-prescribed blood draws do not take place. We knew that we could develop a solution to change this.”
Phlebotomists Control Their Own Schedules
Launched in January, Iggbo is now in 18 cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, and New York. More than 4,000 phlebotomists have joined within the first seven months, enticed by the opportunity to go from working in clinical laboratories, hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care facilities to being their own bosses.
“Phlebotomists working with Iggbo can totally control their schedule, accepting appointments either automatically or with just a couple of clicks,” Valentine says. “Best of all, because they are conducting high-value draws from leading clinical laboratories, they are often doubling their income.”
Government Investigation into Health Diagnostic Laboratory Sparks Iggbo
The Iggbo partnership formed on the heels of a 2014 U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc., a fast-growing Richmond, VA, laboratory that came under regulatory scrutiny for paying doctors who sent it patients’ blood for testing. The government issued a fraud alert on June 25, 2014, warning labs that paying “process and handling” fees to doctors presented a “substantial risk of fraud and abuse under the anti-kickback statute.” At the same time, several states began enacting regulations prohibiting the placement of laboratory employees or collection stations in physician offices.
“So the government really produced the opportunity [for Iggbo],” stated Mark Van Roekel, Iggbo’s President and Co-founder, told Richmond BizSense. “And the government did the right thing, frankly. In the way it was set up before, there was a passive incentive that was in place for physicians to order more tests than they perhaps should because there was money to be had.”
Smartphone App Draws on Prequalified Phlebotomy Workforce
Iggbo is leveraging the mobile, on-demand delivery approach pioneered by Uber, the California-based company that lets people use their own cars as taxis and connect to customers through its mobile app. Iggbo, however, is tapping into an existing workforce of independent, prequalified phlebotomists and connecting them with doctors, patients and laboratories.
“For clinical labs, finding the right talent at the right time has always been a challenging task,” Valentine said. “That is, until Iggbo.”
When an Iggbo-enabled physician logs onto the Iggbo app to order a test, the appointment instantly goes out to a pool of available, prequalified phlebotomists who can accept or decline. Priority goes to “Favorites,” technicians selected by the physician and to those with the highest quality rankings. Appointments can take place anywhere, from a provider’s office to the patient’s home or workplace.
The Iggbo smartphone app guides the phlebotomist, including notes from the provider, step-by-step instruction for sample collection, preparation, packing and shipping, and bar code scanning for tracking.
Physicians, Laboratories and Patients: Everyone Benefits
The company believes its on-demand platform also is a win-win for clinical laboratories, providers and patients. Laboratories pay on a variable, per-test basis, without incurring the costs of an in-house staff, while physicians get a no-cost means of ensuring the tests they order take place. Iggbo pays the contracted phlebotomists while the service is free to patients.
“Physicians can be confident of patient compliance with necessary lab tests. Patients can have blood drawn at their convenience. Phlebotomists can work when they want, where they want,” said Shaival Kapadia, M.D., Iggbo’s Founder and Chief Medical Officer and Co-director at Bon Secours Heart and Vascular Institute, in StreetInsider.com.
Since its launch, Iggbo has 98.2%-appointment integrity, a success rate boosted by a proprietary appointment reminder system that reduces patient no-shows.
The company is actively looking to move into all 50 states as it builds its network of laboratories and phlebotomists. It wants to create new opportunities for clinical labs to deliver more value. It remains to be seen, however, how this new phlebotomy service will play out has healthcare further integrates into such delivery models as ACOs and patient-centered medical homes.
—Andrea Downing Peck