Devices & Diagnostics

Minnesota startup QuickCheck Health banks on a retail healthcare future

A few months ago when we wrote about Minnesota startup QuickCheck Health and its attempt to raise $2 million, the company’s founder, president and CEO, Tom Henke, declined to comment. But this week after QuickCheck was named a semifinalist in the biosciences division of the high-profile statewide business competition Minnesota Cup, Henke agreed to provide […]

A few months ago when we wrote about Minnesota startup QuickCheck Health and its attempt to raise $2 million, the company’s founder, president and CEO, Tom Henke, declined to comment.

But this week after QuickCheck was named a semifinalist in the biosciences division of the high-profile statewide business competition Minnesota Cup, Henke agreed to provide more details about his startup, which he described as a health services company. On its website, QuickCheck Health also describes itself as a “retail clinic in a box.”

Using proprietary technology, QuickCheck Health aims to manipulate at-home tests for common ailments like urinary tract infections, strep throat and the flu. Now, instead of patients having to read test results following time-elapsed guidelines and color matches, they can simply read a code generated by the test strip and enter that information on the company’s website to know whether they have tested positive. If so, they can immediately launch an e-visit with a doctor. The physician reviews the information and decides whether a prescription needs to be sent to the patient’s pharmacy.

QuickCheck Health’s first product, aimed at adapting UTI at-home test strips, is currently being tested on a working prototype. Henke hopes to file a 510(k) application in late August and expects a product launch by the end of the year. He declined to say how much of the $2 million has been raised, except to say that the round will close shortly. In March, the company, based in Excelsior, Minnesota, had raised $260,000. It has six employees, including Matt Mesnik, chief medical officer, who used to be chief medical officer of MinuteClinic.

QuickCheck falls within the spectrum of companies that aim to reduce the cost of healthcare by transferring common ailments from being treated at high-cost settings to lower cost ones. Henke said he believes that if his company is successful, it has the potential to save 89 million annual doctor visits through its at-home diagnosis and online doctor visit solution.

“There are so many visits related to common things, (and QuickCheck Health) will free up additional time for doctors to provide better care for people with more serious conditions,” Henke said in a phone interview.

He added that the company has already had “unsolicited conversations” with representatives of Target, Walgreen, Wal-Mart and CVS who are waiting for the product to win market clearance. QuickCheck Health is also close to a final agreement with a manufacturer of test strips whose tests the company desires to adapt.

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“We are not intending to create new science around the chemistry of testing,” Henke said “We are using fairly straight forward electronics. We are marrying two technologies together and then adapting it with our code process.”

While Henke declined to make any revenue projections, he was not shy about how much a consumer may expect to pay for QuickCheck’s UTI test when it becomes available. Regular tests would run $10-$13 for three tests. Those adapted with QuickCheck’s coding technology will have two tests retailing for $14.95 and refill packs of three will sell for for $9.95, he said, making them slightly more expensive than what’s currently available. For an online doctor visit, consumers will pay $35, which will, in most cases, be shared by the provider and QuickCheck.

Henke added that more and more consumers are using retail clinics, and this trend bodes well for QuickCheck Health, which aims to be the first line of defense for patients.

“It’s unacceptable for a typical consumer to spend $100 to $200 on a test at a doctor’s clinic for something that may or may not be positive,” Henke said. “They are seeking alternatives.”

Another local company that is providing such alternatives is Zipnosis, which is also premised on the belief that routine ailments do not need to be diagnosed at a clinic but instead can be done online. But Henke said that Zipnosis may become a collaborator with QuickCheck’s e-visit portion of the business and made the distinction that while Zipnosis makes a diagnosis by reviewing patient symptoms, QuickCheck Health is not looking at making interpretations of assumptions. Rather it seeks to make at-home tests more accurate and independent of reader judgment by electronically generating a code.

Similar or not, both Zipnosis and QuickCheck embody a new kind of healthcare company that seeks to make primary care more efficient and less expensive. If they can convince consumers that rushing off to the doctor’s office is not crucial every time they fall sick, they stand to reap rich rewards.

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the healthcare market is awash in opportunity for companies like retailers who can serve new markets such as primary care. The report also found that working with these new companies will make traditional healthcare players stronger.

It’s no surprise then that retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have been communicating with QuickCheck Health, and that Park Nicollet Health Services is running a pilot program to test Zipnosis’ software.