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Katie the Intern 3/12/21

March 12, 2021 Katie the Intern No Comments

Hi, HIStalk! So sorry it has been a few weeks. I’ve been working on some COVID-19 research pieces, applying for full-time jobs, and working in my other part-time positions. Hope you all are well! 


Today’s column features an interview with Jack Jeng, MD, MBA, chief medical officer at Scanwell Health. He has served in the role for two years and worked in roles managing partnerships, business development, and medical and regulatory affairs. 

Scanwell Health developed an app for users to complete laboratory tests and obtain fast results from home. Tests include UTI and kidney disease detection, but Scanwell Health hopes to soon have COVID-19 antibody and antigen tests available.

“We develop software to allow at-home medical testing to be performed,” Dr. Jeng said. “We take existing tests that have already been developed by manufacturers and we help them adapt it so that now it can be used at home with the help of the Scanwell software.” 

The Scanwell Health app takes a photo of a testing strip (for tests such as the UTI detection test) and runs the image through computer vision algorithms to obtain lab results, Dr. Jeng said. There is little wait time and users obtain results in the privacy and comfort of their home. 

“You don’t have to worry about sending any samples back to a lab or about waiting for results,” Dr. Jeng said. “You get the results pretty much immediately.” 

Scanwell’s software doesn’t just return lab results using this color-metric technology. It also walks users through how to complete at-home lab tests and connects them to health care provider partners. For the UTI test, Scanwell Health connects test takers to Lemonaid if they’d like to see a provider after they receive test results. Responses typically come from providers within two hours of submission.

“Once you get the result, you can choose to complete a telehealth consult by tapping a button in the app that takes you to a telehealth provider,” Dr. Jeng said. “You would answer some questions with their doctors, and if appropriate, the doctor would write you a prescription.” 

So how do these tests work? Users order a test and then a QR code is scanned when ready to use. The Scanwell app loads instructions for that test and explains how a user will perform the collection needed. For the UTI test, the app tells users to collect a urine sample on the provided test strip or “scan card.” The app will then start a timer for the reaction time and tell the user to take a picture of the test strip. 

“It will run a few algorithms to make sure the lighting is standardized, there are no shadows, and the quality of the image is appropriate,” Dr. Jeng said. “If it passes all those checks, it will then look at the change in color on the test strip and give you a result right away.”

The algorithms used by Scanwell software standardize the image taken by the user, Dr. Jeng said. “Ultimately, it is using the smartphone’s camera and our software’s algorithms to give you the result.”

Scanwell Health is partnering with Innovita to develop tech for COVID-19 antibody testing. Scanwell is also partnering with Becton Dickinson for a COVID-19 antigen test. While both of these tests are still in development phases, Scanwell Health is excited about their ability to give users fast results for COVID-19. 

The developing COVID-19 antigen and antibody tests won’t use the color-changing technology used in the UTI tests. These tests will use lateral flow assay testing, Dr. Jeng said, to detect the presence of a particular substance similar to a pregnancy test.

The COVID-19 antibody test should offer results in as little as 15 minutes. This test is performed after a finger prick, which would also be guided by the Scanwell Health app. The collection card will then be photographed by the user. These lab results will eventually be counted for COVID-19 case numbers because they will be documented through lab testing.

“Once the test is available to the public, we’re able to facilitate state and federal public health reporting requirements because we have an app that is the one doing the analyzing of the test strip,” Dr. Jeng said. Scanwell Health will be able to share these results because there is no reliance on users reporting a positive or negative result. 

While these COVID-19 tests are still in their study phase and will need to go through the FDA review process, the technology that Scanwell Health makes for reading these tests has been used for many years. Scanwell Health’s founder and CEO, Stephen Chen, MBA developed the idea from a family business that manufactures in vitro diagnostic tests. 

“He was working at the family business on the next generation of urine analyzers when he came up with the idea of what is now Scanwell,” Dr. Jeng said. Stephen Chen saw the potential that smartphones offered for users to have better access and control of healthcare related testing. Since 2010, Chen worked on the idea of smartphone powered test analyzers and founded Scanwell Health in 2018 after FDA clearance of the UTI test. 

As far as the future of Scanwell Health beyond the developing COVID-19 antibody and antigen tests, Dr. Jeng said that Scanwell hopes to bring this ease-of-access testing to rural areas without close healthcare access. The possibilities for future tests are unlimited, as testing does not have to be limited to infected diseases but can also provide tests for chronic disease testing and monitoring. 

“Our focus is on bringing as many tests into the home as possible because we recognize that more and more people are seeking ways to get care from home,” Dr. Jeng said. “It really enables people to test and get treated on their terms, where they want, when they want.”

Scanwell Health also has a chronic kidney disease test and is working on studies for monitoring kidney disease over time. Scanwell Health received a $1.6 million grant from the NIH for this study with the hopes that it could provide insight into early signs of chronic kidney disease by testing participants once a month.

Dr. Jeng said that Scanwell is exploring options for their tests to be documentation of negative COVID-19 tests in the future. Scanwell Health also has a focus on bringing testing to middle to low-income countries. They work with an organization called Find to develop malaria tests in pilot countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Rwanda, and Sudan. Scanwell Health hopes to expand testing so that people all over the world have better access to testing and healthcare technology.

“When we look at lower-income countries, they don’t have the same kind of infrastructure as we do. They don’t have the same number of labs and access to testing, but a lot of them do have smartphones,” Dr. Jeng said. “Our approach, we think, is really universal, and what may be considered convenient in the United States could be the only way to do testing in another country.”

That’s it for this column. Hope you enjoyed! 

Katie The Intern


Email me or connect with me on Twitter.

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