Vida Care speeds up access to Covid-19 testing in Ireland

Quick-thinking entrepreneur and Vida Care founder Conor Kelly anticipated the need for faster access to Covid-19 testing with a 24-hour turnaround.

Pretty much as soon as the lockdown began in March, Kelly anticipated the need to deliver 24-hour Covid-19 testing and he put the wheels in motion, consulting with business groups like Ibec and assembling an advisory team of medics, GPs and HR experts.

His new business Vida Care makes it possible for Irish schools, businesses and airlines to conduct private on-site COVID-19 testing for students, staff and passengers and to receive results within 24 hours.

“Many people need the test results for different reasons including travel and peace of mind”

The company has already provided this service to many businesses and educational providers including Blackrock College and leading global pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies Abbvie and Allergan. Vida Care is also one of two approved providers contracted by UAE based Pure Health to carry out pre-flight Covid-19 tests on the 500,000 passengers who fly from Ireland to the United Arab Emirates each year.

The case for faster Covid-19 testing

“We are solving access to Covid-19 testing in Ireland,” says Kelly. “You currently need symptoms and a referral from a GP to get a test in Ireland. Many people need the test results for different reasons including travel and peace of mind. The State does not provide this.”

He has a point. A person who needs to travel and present proof that they are safe to travel is most likely to be in a bind without such a service available. Many countries and airlines require proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 24 hours prior to allowing a person on the plane.

The company provides a proactive solution that offers peace of mind to schools, businesses and airline passengers, enabling them to arrange private Covid-19 testing at any time. GPs meanwhile, can only arrange a Covid-19 test if a patient presents with symptoms.

“We provide private on-site testing for Covid-19 for businesses and educational providers. We also operate a drive-through testing service at the Carlton Hotel in Dublin Airport with same day test appointments which can be booked online at www.vidacare.ie.  

“Our Core product is Covid-19 testing and its works with a sample taken from a person’s throat and nasal passage. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis and results are available in 24 hours. We have also designed an extensive symptom tracker and workplace monitor to ensure Covid-19 is kept at home and away from the workplace.”

This is Kelly’s third business. His previous businesses were in the automotive leasing market, including Merrion Fleet and Sixt Leasing Ireland. He grew up in a family business and was always interested in building business from the ground up.

Impact of pandemic will be long term

Whether or not a vaccine is found for Covid-19, the reality is the impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt for some time. From an operational and a reputational standpoint, guaranteeing workers are virus-free will be critical.

Vida Care is targeting continued growth based on its ability to provide businesses who may experience a Covid-19 outbreak with rapid on-site testing and results. It is currently engaged with Irish meat processing companies and other businesses who are developing Covid-19 outbreak contingency plans.

The private Covid-19 swab test offered by Vida Care is the same as the PCR swab test used by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and approved by the Department of Health. Swabs are analysed in laboratories operating to ISO standards with >99pc sensitivity and specificity. Results are available within 24 hours.

The on-site testing service provided by Vida Care is subject to a minimum of 10 people. Testing is also available through a preferred network of GP clinics. Vida Care’s PCR Covid-19 private test is priced at €190 per person. Vida Care is compliant with best GDPR practice.

Monitoring app

Vida Care has also developed a health screening, symptom tracker and work place monitoring App that uses a traffic-light system to ensure that workers who may have COVID-19 symptoms are promptly identified and isolated, as appropriate. 

Employees securely registering to use the app are notified to fill out a symptom tracker each morning.  It determines whether the worker has the ‘green light’ to go to work. Once at work they can use the App to confirm compliance with hygiene guidelines such as hand sanitisation and wearing a face mask.

Should an employee develop and register Covid-19 symptoms the tracker will display an orange or red light, commencing the process of isolation, contract tracing and testing as necessary. All activity on the App is logged, providing employers with a full record of compliance. 

“Vida Care is the first to offer businesses private-testing for Covid19. Our health screening, symptom tracking, and workplace monitoring app offers an expedient and reliable solution to businesses and schools who want to take a pro-active approach to protecting their employees and students.”

Kelly’s observations on the start-up ecosystem environment is that there is a lot of support and advice available from many sources.

“The biggest lessons are to listen to your colleagues and customers. They always have the answers. Surround yourself with a great team who are happy to talk in an open constructive and positive environment. There is no room for egos in business.”

His advice for fellow founders: “Stay focused and never give up.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 24 September, 2020