Healthcare is evolving. We take a look at Switch Health, the Canadian health technology player enabling accessibility across the country, and speak to executive members of the company helping to guide forward a 21-century view of healthcare.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare has become a focal industry that has had to rapidly evolve to the global challenges that have arisen.
Technology and logistics have been two of the most crucial spheres of development to companies during this period, after the impact of national lockdowns and restricted social interaction. In Canada, these have proved to be critical to the success of healthcare entities, especially considering the vast travel distances and rough terrain across the country, ensuring that the national population has continued to receive professional medical services.
Within the space, Switch Health continues to leverage technology to deliver secure, compliant, frustration-free healthcare experiences. Established in 2017, Switch Health is on a mission to create equitable and affordable healthcare access to patients no matter who they are, where they are, what they need, or when they need it.
Switch Health is a technology company and platform at heart, making healthcare testing and diagnostics accessible to all Canadians no matter their location.
It is the view of Switch Health that a patient should not be at a certain point of care in order to receive care, leading to the company’s decentralized testing model, discreet home kits, and telehealth experience looking to cover a multitude of areas from general health and wellness to COVID-19 and sexual-related health – the foundational platform for the company.
Switch Health originally focused on operating healthcare initiatives in disease management with a specific focus on diabetes, pooling and sharing data to help monitor patient records and progress.
“One of our first-ever activities was with cohorts of people afflicted with diabetes, and building and connecting data stores via data bridges,” begins Marc Thomson, Co-CEO of the company. “For example, somebody afflicted with diabetes may have two or three tools they use to manage their ailment, involving data collection and data storage, with data being collected in two or more locations depending on what they were monitoring.
“Our ethos is to create an experience where patients can access a wealth of their own data and share this with physicians and their healthcare teams – a healthcare ecosystem.”
PIONEERING THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC
Switch Health’s ethos was the foundation from which the company grew, trusting patients to self-monitor and self-report to medical professionals, and enabling insights and information to pass back and forth between the two parties. In this way, patients and professionals work together to reach a diagnosis and result whereby the former is involved and up to date with their diagnosis, while medical staff gain a greater understanding of individual patient needs.
Today, Switch Health is a key operator in the Canadian healthcare space, having utilized its technological and digital advantage to help patients across the country before, during, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians began adopting new technologies during a period where it became important to be more proactive about one’s health,” Thomson says. “There was an incredible amount of growth within Canada, specifically with the adoption of health technologies and deeper industry partnerships to further access to innovative care.”
“While the past three years have been incredibly challenging for our healthcare system, it has also been a disruptive force that has pushed all of us to adopt new ways of delivering care – especially via partnerships between government and broader industry. Within this, Switch Health is helping to guide the industry towards a more 21st-century view of healthcare,” continues Dilian Stoyanov, Co-CEO of the company.
“COVID-19 came out of nowhere, and we realized that we had a lot of infrastructure and technology partnerships, as well as know-how with public systems and industry partners to scale a nationwide testing program for the pandemic. This started with the province of Ontario, which then scaled to a border testing program at 114 land borders, and onto all of Canada’s major airports.
“We are now taking our developed platform and using it in the area where we started, decentralized diagnostics and testing for a variety of ailments. We believe that we can apply our experience in health logistics and diagnostics to achieve better access and outcomes for people who traditionally have not been as well served in the past.”
Prior to Switch Health’s operations in the healthcare industry, patients had access to telehealth and other forms of remote healthcare services, yet the company remains a pioneer in facilitating self-diagnostics at home under medical supervision on a large scale, including active translation services in over 235 languages.
Combining open communication, collaboration and monitoring between patients and medical professionals, and diagnostic assurance through sample collection and delivery, Switch Health draws a line between wellness and healthcare, delivering the scale of the former and the precision of the latter.
COLLABORATION IN THE FIELD
Following substantial success in helping patients and facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Switch Health took the step to further its services through acquisition and integration, bolstering what it offered the Canadian healthcare industry.
“As we looked to the future of our company and our vision to bring diagnostic laboratory testing to all Canadians regardless of their location, it made sense to vertically integrate certain parts of our business,” explains Thomson.
The company acquired Bio-Test Laboratories in April 2022. Bio-Test is an accredited and licensed laboratory located in Ottawa, Ontario and is one of six community labs within the province, and has over 50 years of experience in the lab space.
“So, what we have is the merging of two entities; on the Switch Health side, we have the ability to collect a specimen from home through logistics, kits, and communications, but on the Bio-Test side we have an experienced laboratory that specializes in diagnostics,” he continues. “By combining these elements, we are able to bring a modern logistics experience to healthcare, as well as enabling greater access.”
This is an especially important mission in Canada, where rural and remote locations often couple with rough terrain and infrastructure difficulties, making direct travel and visitation to healthcare facilities more difficult for the average patient.
Switch Health leverages Bio-Test’s ISO-certified services to validate tests such as HPV, STI, and many others, helping as many people as possible with accessible diagnostic testing.
SWITCH HEALTH ACCESSIBLE ANYWHERE
Incorporating seamless and efficient logistics services into operation was a key aspect of Switch Health’s vision, and one that has been critical to the organization’s success throughout the COVID-19 period and into the present.
According to Thomson, a large part of establishing the logistical side of the company was based on its ability to implement a reliable turnaround time of pick up from anywhere in Canada to delivery to centralized partner laboratories for testing and diagnosis.
“We pulled together networks into one platform and scaled them to service provinces across the country,” he elaborates. “Partnering with Uber was a no-brainer, as well as creating our own network of drop boxes that people can access and use themselves.
“For more isolated places in Canada you are not going to find Uber services, however, we wanted to still be able to provide a fantastic service with partners such as Purolator which allowed us a faster turnaround of shipments, and consequently with these additional partners we ended up serving around 95 percent of Canada within 24 to 48 hours.”
OPENING HEALTHCARE TO THE WORLD
This mixture of speed and quality service is a core focus of the company moving forward and an aspect of Switch Health that will be continually built upon into the future.
It is imperative for the company that samples and specimens collected from patient homes are taken to laboratories with a swift and efficient turnaround.
“We simply want to provide the best service for home diagnostics which means continuing to have a clinical oversight throughout the process – which is novel in our space,” Thomson says. “We do have international aspirations, and while there are many competitors out there, we are bringing a unique feature to home diagnostic solutions.”
Furthermore, Switch Health will be introducing some new tests to the market and expanding its locations, including a five-acre 8,000 square-foot facility which will become an innovation hub.
“This facility will house another laboratory focused on research and development,” Stoyanov says. “Some of that research and development includes collaboration with leading companies in cancer detection and pandemic preparedness through innovative rapid testing technologies.”
For Switch Health, every Canadian is important. This is shown in the company’s ability to provide services and support across digital and telehealth platforms, whether people have or lack connection to the internet, Switch Health can reach and help them.
Switch Health also supports American Sign Language, as well as 235 other languages, making the company’s technologically accessible services not only scalable globally, but also accessible to anyone, anywhere.
A large part of establishing the logistical side of the company was based on its ability to implement a reliable turnaround time of pick up from anywhere in Canada.