Whether it’s your annual exam or an ongoing health issue, doctor’s visits very often involve expensive lab tests that deter some from visiting the physician in the first place. What comes out of your wallet all comes down to what individual health insurance plans cover.
Healthcare startup Grassroots Labs lowers those costs by turning laboratory testing into a marketplace, instead of a default.
“Our goal is to get people the testing that they need and to be able to see the doctor at an affordable price,” says co-founder Zachary Aten.
“After I graduated from Georgia Tech, I started an IT consulting business and I was doing some work for a local healthcare non-profit here in the Atlanta area. They [helped] people who are uninsured and below the poverty line and offered doctor visits either for free or at a reduced price,” says Aten.
During his time working with the non-profit, he saw a pattern among their clients. Even though the visits were free, they often chose to forego care and not come back for follow-up visits because of expensive lab tests needed for the doctors to prescribe them the necessary medication. “Which means that their diabetes was going out of control and people were winding up in the ER or urgent care, where the cost of healthcare is even higher,” says Aten.
That’s when he got to work on Grassroots Labs, paired up with his co-founder Cheryl Aten and partnered with a national clinical laboratory to make picking up tests as affordable and convenient as “buying paper towels off Amazon.” The process is seamless — your doctor alerts you to the lab tests you need, you go online to Grassroots Labs’ site, purchase the necessary labs, find a testing center near you and check out.
After conducting the tests, your results will be available within 2-3 days through a secure portal and you can send them on to your doctor for next steps. Unlike most procedures that go through health insurance, you can see pricing information ahead of time without any surprises down the line, thanks to their direct-to-consumer approach.
“People get transparency on our site,” says Aten. “They get accurate testing that they need at a low cost — oftentimes, 50 percent or more off of what they would be paying in a doctors’ office or if they went directly to the lab.”
The startup is focusing on people who are managing chronic diseases (think diabetes or hepatitis C) since they require repeat testing up to four times a year to oversee their medication dosing. They’re also growing partnerships with companies with self-insured employees as well as health systems.
The ATDC Accelerate startup is bootstrapped and not looking for funding, shares Aten. The team is prioritizing customer experience and health systems partnership acquisition to continue building and validating their business plan.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to get people that piece of paper that they need to get seen by their doctor and get the healthcare they need,” says Aten. “I don’t want people to ever have to make a decision about not going to the doctor because they are afraid of how much it’s going to cost.”
“We’re not trying to solve all healthcare problems; we’re just focused in on one area and that’s lab testing — where we feel like we can have the most impact for patients.”