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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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FDA Grants Marketing Authorization to Diagnostic Tests for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with At-Home Sample Collection

FDA says the move will make it easier to gain authorization for other clinical laboratory tests to utilize at-home collection kits

In another sign of how diagnostic testing is responding to changing consumer preferences, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted marketing authorization to LetsGetChecked for the company’s Simple 2 test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which includes at-home collection of samples sent to the test developer’s clinical laboratories in the US and in Ireland.

This marks the first time the FDA has cleared a diagnostic test for either condition in which samples are collected at home. It’s also the first test with at-home sample collection to be authorized for any sexually transmitted infection (STI) other than HIV, the FDA said in a new release.

Simple 2 Home Collection Kits are available over the counter for anyone 18 or older. The kits employ Hologic’s Aptima collection devices, according to a company press release. A prepaid shipping label is also included to enable delivery to one of LetsGetChecked’s medical laboratories. The company performs the tests using the Hologic Aptima Combo 2 assay for Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG).

Samples are collected through a vaginal swab or urine sample. “Results are delivered online in approximately 2-5 days with follow-up virtual consultations and treatment available if needed,” the company press release states.

Previously authorized tests for the conditions required sample collection at the point of care. The company also offers telehealth and online pharmacy services.

Jeff Shuren, MD, JD

“This authorization marks an important public health milestone, giving patients more information about their health from the privacy of their own home,” said Jeff Shuren, MD, JD (above), Director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “We are eager to continue supporting greater consumer access to diagnostic tests, which helps further our goal of bringing more healthcare into the home.” With this emphasis on at-home testing from the FDA, clinical laboratories in the US and Ireland will likely be processing more at-home collected samples. (Photo copyright: FDA.)

Simple 2 Process and Costs

Prior to collecting the sample, the user goes online to complete a questionnaire and activate the kit, the FDA news release notes.

LetsGetChecked, headquartered in New York City and Dublin, Ireland, says its US labs are CLIA– and CAP-certified. The company currently offers more than 30 at-home tests covering STIs, men’s health, women’s health, and COVID-19, at prices ranging from $89 to $249 per test.

The Simple 2 test costs $99, and is not covered by insurance, Verywell Health reported. Consumers can get discounts by subscribing to quarterly, semiannual, or annual tests.

New Regulatory Pathway

The FDA said it reviewed the test under its De Novo regulatory pathway, which is intended for “low- to moderate-risk devices of a new type,” according to the news release.

“Along with this De Novo authorization, the FDA is establishing special controls that define the requirements related to labeling and performance testing,” the agency stated. “When met, the special controls, in combination with general controls, provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness for tests of this type.”

This creates a new regulatory classification, the agency said, that will make it easier for similar devices to obtain marketing authorization.

Citing data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA news release states that chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common bacterial STIs in the US. The CDC estimates that there were 1.6 million cases of chlamydia and more than 700,000 cases of gonorrhea in 2021.

“Typically, both infections can be easily treated, but if left untreated, both infections can cause serious health complications for patients, including infertility,” the news release states. “Expanding the availability of STI testing can help patients get quicker results and access to the most appropriate treatment, ultimately helping to curb the rising rates of STIs.”

Experts Praise the FDA’s Authorization of the Lab Test

STI experts contacted by STAT said they welcomed the FDA’s move.

“There are many people who would like to be tested for STIs who may not know where to go or who have barriers to accessing medical care,” said Jodie Dionne, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Infectious Diseases. “If we are going to do a better job of reaching more sexually active people for STIs … we need to be creative about how to get them tested and treated in a way that is highly effective and works for them.”

Family physician Alan Katz, MD, a professor at the University of Hawaii John A Burns School of Medicine, told STAT that the Hologic assay is also used by clinicians who treat people in remote locations to diagnose STIs and is regarded as being highly accurate.

“This option is exceptionally useful for individuals who live in rural areas or are geographically distanced from a clinic where STI testing can be done and there is no telehealth option available,” he told STAT.

With this latest move, the FDA is recognizing that it is time to give consumers more control over their healthcare. This is a signal to clinical laboratories that they should be developing their own strategies and offerings that serve consumers who want to order their own tests. Of course, many states still require a physician’s signature on lab test orders, but that is likely to change over time.

—Stephen Beale

Related Information:

FDA Grants Marketing Authorization of First Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with At-Home Sample Collection

LetsGetChecked Receives US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) De Novo Authorization for At-Home Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Testing System

FDA Grants Approval for First Time to a Home Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

FDA Authorizes First Home Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

You Can Now Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with an At-Home Kit FDA Approves Home Test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

‘There’s an App for That’ is Becoming the Norm in Healthcare as Smartphones Provide Access to Patient Medical Records and Clinical Laboratory Test Results

Amazon’s app-based employee healthcare service could be first step toward retailer becoming a disruptive force in healthcare; federal VA develops its own mHealth apps

More consumers are using smartphone applications (apps) to manage different aspects of their healthcare. That fact should put clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups on the alert, because a passive “wait and see” strategy for making relevant services and lab test information available via mobile apps could cause patients to choose other labs that do offer such services.

Patient use of apps to manage healthcare is an important trend. In January, Dark Daily covered online retail giant Amazon’s move to position itself as a leader in smartphone app-based healthcare with its launch of Amazon Care, a virtual medical clinic and homecare services program. At that time, the program was being piloted for Seattle-based employees and their families only. Since then, it has been expanded to include eligible Amazon employees throughout Washington State.

Mobile health (mHealth) apps are giving healthcare providers rapid access to patient information. And healthcare consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for 24/7 access to medical records, clinical laboratory test results, management of chronic conditions, and quick appointment scheduling and prescription refills.

Thus, hearing ‘There’s an app for that’ has become part of patients’ expectations for access to quality, affordable healthcare.

For clinical laboratory managers, this steady shift toward mHealth-based care means accommodating patients who want to use mobile apps to access lab test results and on-demand lab data to monitor their health or gain advice from providers about symptoms and health issues.

Amazon, VA, and EMS Develop Their Own mHealth Apps

The Amazon Care app can be freely downloaded from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. With it, eligible employees and family members can:

  • Communicate with an advice nurse;
  • Launch an in-app video visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner for advice, diagnoses, treatment, or referrals;
  • Request a mobile care nurse for in-home or in-office visits;
  • Receive prescriptions through courier delivery.

The combination telehealth, in-person care program, mobile medical service includes dispatching nurses to homes or workplaces who can provide “physical assessments, vaccines or common [clinical laboratory] tests.”

Glen Tullman, Executive Chairman of Livongo
“Amazon is a company that is experimenting a lot with a variety of opportunities in healthcare,” Glen Tullman (above), Executive Chairman of Livongo, a healthcare company specializing in treating diabetes, and an Amazon partner company, told CNBC. “It’s one to watch.” (Photo copyright: CNBC.)

However, the US federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also is becoming a major player in the mHealth space with the development of its own mobile app—VA Launchpad—which serves as a portal to a range of medical services.

Veterans can access five categories of apps that allow them to manage their health, communicate with their healthcare team, share health information, and use mental health and personal improvement tools.

Neil C. Evans, MD, Chief Officer in the VA Office of Connected Care
“The VA was an early adopter of digital health tools and remains a leader within US healthcare in leveraging technology to enhance patient engagement,” Neil C. Evans, MD (above), Chief Officer in the VA Office of Connected Care, told Healthcare IT News. “These digital tools are allowing veterans to more actively understand their health data, to better communicate with VA clinical teams, and to engage more productively as they navigate their individual health journeys,” Evans added. (Photo copyright: Department of Veterans’ Affairs.)

mHealthIntelligence reported that mobile health tools also are enabling first responders to improve emergency patient care. At King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, Miss., emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are using a group of mHealth apps from DrFirst called Backline to gain real-time access to patients’ HIPAA-compliant medication histories, share clinical data, and gain critical information about patients prior to arriving on the scene.

Using Backline, EMTs can scan the barcode on a patient’s driver’s license to access six months’ worth of medication history.

“In the past, we could only get information from [patients] who are awake or are willing to give us that information,” Lee Robbins, Director of Emergency Medical Services at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, Miss., told mHealthIntelligence. “Knowing this information gives us a much better chance at a good outcome.”

Smartphone App Detects Opioid Overdose

The opioid crisis remains one of the US’ greatest health challenges. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 47,600 opioid-related deaths in 2017, and the problem has only gotten worse since then.

To curtail these tragic deaths, University of Washington (UW) researchers developed a smartphone app called Second Chance, that they believe can save lives by quickly diagnosing when an opioid overdose has occurred.

The app uses sonar to monitor an opioid user’s breathing rate and, according to a UW press release, can detect overdose-related symptoms about 90% of the time from up to three feet away. The app then contacts the user’s healthcare provider or emergency services.

The UW researchers are applying for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. They published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

While Demand for mHealth Apps Grows, Concern over Privacy and Security also Increases  

According to mobile data and analytics company App Annie, global downloads of medical apps grew to more than 400 million in 2018, up 15% from two years earlier.

“As with mobile banking, consumers are showing they trust mobile apps with their most sensitive information and are willing to leverage them to replace tasks traditionally fulfilled in-person, such as going into a bank branch or, in the case of medical apps, to a doctor’s office,” App Annie’s website states.

However, the proliferation of mHealth apps has raised privacy and safety concerns as well. While the FDA does regulate some mobile health software functions, it does not ensure an mHealth app’s accuracy or reliability.

In his article, “Dangers of Defective Mobile Health Apps and Devices,” published on the Verywell Health website, Kevin Hwang, MD, MPH, physician, researcher, and Medical Director of UT Physicians General Internal Medicine Center in the Texas Medical Center at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, points out that “most mHealth apps have not been tested in a rigorous manner.”

Fierce Healthcarereported that federal lawmakers are worried veterans who use the VA’s 47 mHealth apps could find their sensitive healthcare information shared or sold by third-party companies. In fiscal year 2018, veterans participated in more than one million video telehealth visits, a VA press release reported.

US Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nevada, Chairperson of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, told Fierce Healthcare, “As we assess the data landscape at the VA and the larger health IT space, we need to look at where protections exist or don’t exist and whether we need more guardrails.”

What does all this mean for clinical laboratories? Well, lab managers will want to keep an eye on the growing demand from consumers who want direct access to laboratory test data and appointment scheduling through mHealth apps. And, also be aware of HIPAA regulations concerning the sharing of that information.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

How Amazon is Using IoT to Care for Its Employees

Amazon Launches Amazon Care, a Virtual Medical Clinic for Employees

VA Seeing Substantial Growth in Telehealth, Key Patient Engagement Tools

VA Releases Launchpad App to Streamline Healthcare Access for Veterans and Caregivers

Drug Overdose Deaths

Smartphone App Can Detect Opioid Overdoes Using Sonar

VA Exceeds More than One Million Video Telehealth Visits in FY2018

Medical Apps Transform How Patients Receive Medical Care

Dangers of Defective Mobile Health Apps and Devices

mHealth Tools Help Providers Access Data When They Most Need it

Here’s How Amazon Employees Get Health Care Through a New App—A Glimpse of the Future of Medicine

VA Launches New mHealth App to Consolidate Vets’ Access to Resources

The VA Recommends Apps for PTSD and Pain Management. It’s Led to New Veteran Privacy Concerns