Northwell Health launches LabFly mobile app for blood draws at home

Northwell Health Labs phlebotomist Dina Durdu (far right) prepares a blood draw for a toddler in the family's home. (Northwell Health)

New York-based Northwell Health launched a new mobile app that's an Uber for blood draws.

Called LabFly, the app lets patients schedule blood draws at home or their workplace. It rolled out in Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, and Staten Island earlier this month. The app will launch in the Bronx as well as other surrounding NYC metro areas by the end of 2019, the health system said.

While lab companies such as VeniExpress offer at-home blood draws, Northwell Health officials say LabFly is the first at-home blood draw mobile app launched by a health system.

The app-based service enables patients a convenient and private alternative to having their blood taken at a traditional patient service center, Northwell Health officials said.

Northwell Health's move to get into concierge-type medical services comes as startups like Heal and Pager are putting a high-tech spin on old-fashioned house calls. The companies offer app-based doctor house call services, including blood draws.

“At Northwell Health Labs, our goal is to bring innovative ideas to the table. This app is a new way to give our patients access to the quality experience they would receive at one of our patient service centers but in their living room or place of work. Whether it’s young children who are anxious about a blood draw, busy professionals or someone you’re caring for, this app is a convenient way to help fulfill our patients’ needs," Dwayne Breining, M.D., Northwell Health Labs executive director, said in a statement.

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Most health insurance will cover the fee for lab testing and there is a $20 convenience fee, which includes transportation and sample collection, the health system said. 

Northwell Health Labs developed the app in partnership with software company MphRx and is based on its Minerva platform, an open-standards-based platform.

Health system officials say it's an example of how the organization is using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) health care standard to build innovative experiences for their patients.

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To use the app, patients enter their demographic information, take a photo of their insurance card and paper prescription, then choose a day and time slot to schedule a visit from one of over 150 Northwell Health’s phlebotomists. On the day of the appointment, a patient can view the location of the lab technician similar to tracking rides on apps like Uber and Lyft. 

There is an increasing demand for lab testing and it's the single highest volume medical activity, with about 13 billion tests performed in the United States every year, according to lab accreditation bureau COLA (PDF). Industry studies indicate that approximately 70% of medical decisions are based on lab results, yet many patients who have prescriptions for lab work never get them filled.

Northwell has made significant investments to meet that demand. The health system opened a $59 million, 101,000 square-foot core lab in Nassau County and a $47 million, 36,000 square-foot microbiology lab in Queens – all since February.

"In the past few months, we’ve built a number of state-of-the-art labs that allow us to do more testing and make our labs a leader in the tri-state area. We look forward to continuing this expansion of our labs through LabFly and other future technologies," Michael Dowling, Northwell Health president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.