For more convenient blood testing, gonna LabFly now

This won't hurt a bit: Northwell Health Labs phlebotomist Dina Durdu makes a house call to draw blood from a toddler.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A new “concierge healthcare app” will allow patients of the Northwell Health system to schedule blood draws at home, and to digitally track the subsequent blood testing.

By skipping the clinic, doctor’s office and private laboratory, LabFly – a first-of-its-kind in the nation mobile app – offers patients “a convenient and private alternative,” according to Northwell Health, and an easy opportunity to follow through on their healthcare protocols.

The app was created by Northwell Health Labs, an R&D division of the New Hyde Park-based health system, New York’s largest by number of patients and providers. It’s available for download on both Apple and Android devices, though related services are being released in four geographical phases: Phase One is operational now across Nassau and Suffolk counties, with Phase Two slated for later this month in Manhattan and Queens, followed by rollouts in the other boroughs and Westchester County.

LabFly will be “live in all regions by the end of 2019,” according to Northwell Health, which is trumpeting a breakthrough technology for streamlining laboratory-testing procedures – “the single highest-volume medical activity” in the land, the health system notes.

That includes some 13 billion lab tests performed in the United States every year, according to nonprofit laboratory accreditation bureau COLA Inc., with as much as 70 percent of professional healthcare decisions based on those tests.

Dwayne Breining: Fulfilling needs.

Enter LabFly, which aims to not only make the actual blood tests easier on patients, but help them keep up with prescriptions and other follow-up protocols. The service is not free – there’s a $19.99 “convenience fee” for each scheduled draw, with Northwell offering a 25 percent “introductory discount” to first-time users – but the health system is hoping the convenience factor and other benefits will outweigh the nominal cost.

The app asks users to enter demographic information, take a quick picture of their insurance card and paper prescriptions and schedule a home or private-office visit. Caregivers can also schedule blood draws for patients in their care, with more than 150 trained Northwell Health “lab experts” making the regional rounds.

On the day of the visit, the experts can be tracked on LabFly (like following your approaching Uber, or Santa on Christmas Eve), and while actual bloodwork is still done in accredited laboratories, patients will also be able to securely access their test results via the app.

Noting that the R&D division’s goal is to “bring innovative ideas to the table,” Northwell Health Labs Executive Director Dwayne Breining said the health system was “happy to launch this state-of-the-art app.”

Among LabFly’s advantages, according to Breining, is its flexibility, “whether it’s young children who are anxious about a blood draw, busy professionals or someone you’re caring for.”

“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,” the doctor added. “It’s a convenient way to help fulfill our patients’ needs.”

The Northwell Health Labs application is not the sprawling health system’s first stab at streamlining laboratory testing procedures. In February, Northwell capped a two-year construction project with the opening of a $47.7 million “shared laboratory” in Little Neck, a 36,000-square-foot facility performing microbiology tests for regional hospitals and physicians’ offices.

And in April, in cahoots with New York City Health + Hospitals, the health system cut the ribbon on a $59 million Core Lab – designed for fully automated diagnostic testing – inside its Center for Advanced Medicine in Lake Success.

Those efforts, along with the new LabFly app, are all examples of system-wide patient-centric thinking, according to Northwell Health President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Dowling.

“At Northwell, we continually look for ways of making it easier for patients to access our programs and services,” the CEO said in a statement. “This first-of-its-kind service is just the latest innovation developed by Northwell Health Labs to expand testing to more people and to more communities throughout the metropolitan area.”