Earlier this year, the British-Estonian company, Certific, launched the world’s first certified remote COVID-19 testing service. The company seeks to make medical testing more convenient and affordable while eradicating the problems associated with remote test takers’ trust and adherence to testing procedures. Due to huge demand, their Fit to Fly Test Certificate service keeps getting sold out in the UK.
The pandemic has been a significant catalyst for innovations, and that has spurred several thriving startups. One of them is Certific. Certific was founded by Taavet Hinrikus, Wise’s co-founder, Liis Narusk, tech innovator and entrepreneur, and Dr. Jack Kreindler, physician and health-tech innovator in September 2020.
“At the moment, what we do is provide a thorough guide for home-based/remote tests, verify the test takers’ identity, verify the testing procedures and then certify the test results. Although COVID-19 inspired it, our setup goes further than that,” says Liis, Certific’s CEO and co-founder. “We think that medical diagnostics, as an industry, is yet to be disrupted. It could be ten times better, cheaper, faster, and more convenient for both the patients and the doctors,” she continues.
COVID-19: a catalyst for telemedicine
Innovators and scientists have always pointed out the issue of patients’ trust/reliability and testing procedure adherence as some of the major barriers to telemedicine’s stability. But what if these barriers are out of the way? The Certific app is designed to increase trust in remote/home testing while also ensuring that remote tests are carried out at similar standards to those done in official clinical settings.
“Take COVID-19, for instance, its testing, whether PCR or Rapid Antigen, can be done remotely, but the problem is trust and procedure adherence. The moment a test is to be carried out remotely, some questions should come up.
- How do you verify that the right person took the test?
- Can you guarantee that the test procedure was carried out correctly?
- Is the test result what the patient says it is? (Was the right result declared?)
These are the core questions that Certific provides answers to,” Liis says. We are pretty much like Veriff but for medical diagnostics, and our process is much longer. While Veriff does identity verification, we do identity and medical procedure verification,” she continues.
How does it work?
After getting the COVID-19 test kits, the users would need to log into the Certific mobile or web app. The first step is identity verification, whereby test-takers upload a clear photo of themselves along with a personal identification document. Next, the test kit is to be verified. Here, the users upload clear pictures of their test kits. After that comes the procedure instruction, test-taking, and process recording. Following a step-by-step human guide from the app, the users take the test while recording them. “Although highly synchronized, the video isn’t live. Rather, it is self-recorded, which makes the process highly scalable for verification,” Liis points out.
Certified remote COVID-19 test results in 90 minutes
If the test result is negative, a valid test certificate is issued, and a QR code is created in the app. With a combination of automated and human-based processes, the entire testing procedure (from starting the test to getting the medical certificate) takes a maximum of 90 minutes for Rapid Antigen tests and 24 hours for PCR tests. Those whose results turn up positive are guided on how to handle the situation.
All results are automatically reported to the public health board, but no other party has access to the users’ data aside from the test takers and the public health board. “We don’t share medical data with any third party – not your office, the event organizer, the airlines, etc. We are obligated to report the medical data to the Public Health Department, and that alone we do,” Liis confirms. Being fully compliant with GDPR data privacy, Certific deletes photos and videos of the users within three months of the test or sooner upon request. After that, only the Public Health Department maintains a private copy of the medical record.
Disrupting the health sector
“We are willing and intentional about disrupting the healthcare sector, going far beyond this pandemic period,” Liis says. “But at times, it’s tough. This is because the hurdles you’d have to overcome in terms of legislation, regulations, registrations, licensing, etc., in other sectors like education, transport, and finance are less than in healthcare. That’s understandable, though, because it has to do with patients’ health, human lives, patient medical data, and so on,” she adds. Narusk believes that ‘new brains who are ready to pull from the front and push from the back’ are needed within the e-health sector.
“There are also so many different fields within the healthcare sector where we could experiment and pilot things. I hope that will become more of a priority in Estonia. Also, looking at Estonia’s startup ecosystem and the current prognosis for the next ten years; the future seems bright… According to the Estonian Founders’ Society, the startup sector employs 1% of Estonia’s workforce while accounting for 2-3% of the GDP. With a past growth of about 30% a year, the startup sector will grow to about 50,000 employees, about 10% of Estonian’s workforce, and €10 billion (30% of Estonian GDP) by 2030.
So the question is, ‘how do we enable this foresight?’ I think that the healthcare industry is one of the sectors that has a lot of potential. This is mostly because of the increasing aged population, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and therefore, a bigger demand for remote healthcare. But if governments don’t make this sector a priority and allow disruption, for example enabling patient data transfer across and beyond Europe, then that will be hard to achieve,” Liis points out.
Fit to fly and fit for event participation
For COVID-19 testing, Certific majorly offers the Fit to Fly Certificate with Test Kit and the Fit to Fly Certificate without Test Kit services. The Fit to Fly Certificate with Test Kit comes with two kits, all for 1. According to Liis, “we ship 2 test kits to the test takers because there has to be some room for error. Our test verification procedure is quite rigid. Even though the procedure guide is very audible, easy-to-understand, and synchronistic, some test takers might still make errors leading to invalid tests the first time.
Meanwhile, we immediately invalidate tests that don’t follow the laid-out process correctly. So, with the availability of a second test kit, users have the opportunity to retake the test if need be at no extra cost.” Instead of choosing the Fit to Fly service that comes with test kits, test takers also have the service option to make their preferred test kits available to take the test. But for this option, they need to provide Certific-approved test kits. Asides from the Fit to Fly service, Certific also offers a pre-event COVID-19 testing service.
This pre-event screening ensures that all those who would turn up for an event are COVID-free. To gain entry to the event venue, all that participants need to do is present their Certific test QR code for scanning. Notably, Certific saw to the COVID-19 pre-event screening of about 15,000 attendees of the Standon Calling Festival in the UK in July. And now, they are tasked with testing and screening the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival participants, scheduled for this November.
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Co-author and postgraduate student