The pandemic was a wake-up call for the world to notice gaps in their respective healthcare systems. The US was no exception. While quick isolation and treatment were the need of the hour, COVID-19 affected patients who struggled to get lab tests results in a timely manner.
Since the pandemic ensued, we’re seeing more interest in quick and accessible testing for more diseases and viruses, especially with STIs and STDs on the rise.
However, we’ve discovered a solution based here in southern California. Gather Labs, a new-age CLIA-certified laboratory headquartered in Beverly Hills, is addressing the spread of STIs and STDs by reducing the average lab turnaround time from 2 to 10 days to 24 hours or less.
Gather Labs is the first vertically integrated, high-complexity laboratory in America that offers same-day lab results for over 100 diagnostics tests and panels. In some cases, lab results are shared in about 15 minutes. Patients at Gather Labs receive diagnostic consultations, test administration, and results in a private luxury spa-like environment where they are not judged or discriminated against. Their friendly medical staff take care of each patient’s every concern and are empathetic while answering questions confidently and confidentially. Though majority of its customers are healthcare organizations, healthcare clinics, urgent care operations and OBGYN offices who send their lab specimens to Gather Labs for its patients, if and when a patient walks up or is sent to Gather Labs from a healthcare professional, their friendly staff guides patients to take ownership of their health data and educates them on the importance of routine and preventive testing.
The lab is mending the broken healthcare system by increasing accessibility to lab tests and results with intentional investment in more accurate and efficient instruments. However, this feature is incomplete without mentioning the contributions of Rachael McCrary, the CEO and founder of Gather Labs. She is a seasoned entrepreneur and innovator who wanted to replace the mundane, impersonal experience of having tests done with a luxury, spa-like environment where patients would feel comfortable going for routine tests and don’t need to take a day off work to get a simple test done.
Rachael earned her degree in fashion design at FIDM in San Francisco and lingerie and corsetry design at FIT in New York City before earning her EMT paramedic certification from UCLA’s Center for Prehospital Care. She is also a certified Martha Beck Life Coach and a registered RYT-500 Sivananda yoga teacher. The concept of Gather Labs came to her while working hard to supply PPE and rapid testing kits to medical centers in Asia during the pandemic. She noticed the similarity between Covid-19, STIs, and STDs and the need for rapid testing and quick results and wanted to come up with a solution.
The rise in STDs and STIs has several contributing factors. Despite the vast awareness of contraception and preventive measures, STDs and STIs continue to rise every year. One of them being socio-economic reasons, and delayed testing as major contributors behind the rise of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Additionally, the growing number of dating apps and ability to meet sexual partners with a simple swipe is also a possible reason. The isolation during the pandemic fueled the growth of these apps’ user bases as people craved human connection and continue to find partners digitally, any time they want. People’s number of sexual partners is also growing and is higher than it was a decade ago.
Apart from sexual contact becoming easier, lack of proper testing facilities and affordability are also reasons for the spike in STIs and STDs. Frequent layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic have made health insurance more costly for a large portion of the population, so access to routine testing has become difficult. Due to the significant shift in the education system from classrooms to virtual learning during the pandemic, there has been a gap in sex education and health classes for high-risk demographics. Adolescents in the 15–20 age group in these underrepresented communities are unknowingly contributing to this spike, while those in the similar age group in affluent communities are less impacted as they continue to receive adequate sex education. It is also important to mention that society has stigmatized STD and STI testing, making people hesitant to get tested routinely.
Gather Labs is introducing a much-needed change here. It has a luxury setting and a judgment-free environment where people are free to share their history and experiences with staff. Sample collection is done in about 20 minutes, and the staff is friendly and will address all issues and concerns. Gather Labs is working closely with clinics and gynecologists to make this possible. At present, Gather Labs is setting a scalable example for other labs to follow and contribute to the change needed in routine STI and STD testing.