For almost a year now Own Your Labs (OYL) has been in a kind of “Soft Launch”. It originated from our efforts to gather anonymized data such as through our #BloodTestingDrive at several conferences. Put simply, we’ve sought to (1) get people easier access to bloodwork, and (2) promote greater open science by putting together a publicly archived, yet anonymized set of advanced bloodwork and demographic data.
Affordable Private Labs = Independence
I know this is going to sound like “marketing speak”, but I’m quite serious when I say this – we want everyone who wants to order their labs privately to have the freedom to do so. Which means helping people find the labs they are looking for as affordably as possible, which means keeping our profit margins low AND encouraging comparison shopping. Yes, we even list our favorite competitors on our home page given current recommendation and experience in the community (which I’ll list here as well: Direct Labs, Ulta Lab Tests, Walk-In Lab)
A very large number of people have told us over the years that they’d love to get their bloodwork privately instead of waiting for every time it was setup through their doctor’s office. Often they’re interested in the same tests we are (like fasting Insulin, C-Reactive Protein (CRP), or NMR Lipoprofile) that simply aren’t ordered at all by many medical professionals. And while we’d always encourage everyone to take this data back to their doctor, we agree they should have the freedom to get it in the first place.
Because of how many tests Siobhan and I get on a regular basis (“power users”) and a bit of negotiating behind the scenes, we have an in of sorts with LabCorp which is how we got this pricing. Moreover, as we build on volume of tests with others through, this will give us stronger negotiating with LabCorp in the future to potentially get better pricing.
So in short, yes, our prices are pretty great. But again, that isn’t the real reason we started OYL…
Give Everyone the Option for Citizen Science
The second (and really, biggest) reason we started OYL was to give everyone the option to contribute their data anonymously. We want to build a large, publicly accessible dataset available to formal and citizen researchers alike. If so many of us are getting these advanced tests on our own, why not share it with the community along with some basic demographic data? This will be especially useful for the low carb demographic given how little open data is available for this group.
So we set it up OYL to make this its central theme. You can either (1) use our service as you would any other online, or (2) submit your data to get a “Citizen Scientist Discount” of 10% off the order.
While we had no idea just how many would opt for this choice, I’m pleased to say it’s about 4 out of every 5 who have used OYL to date!
We don’t yet have the anonymized data pool posted as we want to collect a high quantity of submissions to even further anonymize it for those participating. But we will likely meet that threshold in the coming months and launch it here at CC.
Now Ready for Prime Time
When we launched OwnYourLabs.com last year it was a simple cart system in a WordPress site. It has been growing ever since, which is great. However, it had a number of things we wanted to improve on. The number of tests listed were limited to 10 a page, it couldn’t sort alphabetically, and the consent to submit anonymized data required a tricky use of a special coupon code tied to our Terms of Service.
As of yesterday that’s all history. Now OYL is far more intuitive and easy to use. Tests are now in an infinite scrolling list with a real time search. Sorting can be done either in the drop down or by the column you prefer such as the name or price.
Best of all, we have a new consent checkbox that both opens the demographic form and applies a 10% discount all in the same click.
While both Siobhan and myself are partners in OYL, it’s been much more a labor of love than a Big Business Venture. Currently we forward all proceeds toward the Citizen Science Foundation. That said, it’s popularity is taking up more and more of our time, and this refresh might be taking that to the next level.
I certainly welcome the challenge of greater and greater volume to OYL to build this data pool (CSDA) and to help take us take this chapter of Citizen Science to the next level. I’m excited to see the many different analyses it will inspire from both formal and citizen researchers.