Visiting the gynecologist is no fun. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient and, for some communities, plain inaccessible. The obstacles mean that only two-thirds of Canadians at risk of cervical cancer are regularly screened for it—a rate that’s much lower among new Canadians, low-income womenand remote populations.
Jessica Ching set out to change the Pap test experience. “It’s not that people don’t want to take care of their health; it’s that getting to a clinic can be a barrier for some people,” says Ching, an industrial designer by training. “I wondered, What if there was a way for people to collect their own samples at home?”
Ching is CEO of Eve Medical, the Toronto medtech startup behind the Eve Kit, a hand-held device that allows women to perform their own Pap and STI tests. “What I wanted to do as a designer was to make that process as simple, easy and intuitive as possible,” says Ching, who describes herself as an accidental entrepreneur. “So that women wouldn’t feel intimidated by this medical procedure, and it [would be] almost impossible to collect the wrong sample.”
The testing process usually involves booking an exam weeks in advance, commuting to a clinic, dressing in a hospital gown and saddling up on a crinkly sheet to endure cold forceps and awkward chit-chat. Ching’s technology dispenses with that whole dreaded ordeal. To get an Eve Kit, you fill out a brief online questionnaire and place an order. When the kit arrives, you collect a sample and send it to one of the labs Eve Medical partners with for testing. The company notifies you when your results are ready and connects you with one of their partner physicians to explain the findings and arrange counselling if needed.
Ching had no intention of starting a company when she first came up with the idea for the Eve Kit: The prototype was her final project at OCAD. “I was at a fork in the road, where I could either go do what I planned all along—become a designer and help other companies develop products—or take a product I [had] already started and try to put it out in the world,” says Ching. “It wasn’t a clear decision, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt, There’s no reason not to try. And if we could commercialize it, the benefits of doing so could impact many more people than I maybe would have through other design jobs.”
With 1,500 cervical cancer diagnoses and 380 deaths from the disease each year in Canada alone, there’s no doubt easier screening could have a huge impact on women’s health care. While the Eve Kit has yet to officially launch to the public, Eve Medical has secured Health Canada approval for its product and already has health authorities using it for in-clinic self-sampling in 12 different countries. Ching plans to release the final product, which sells for $85 and is covered by some health benefit plans, by year’s end, with the bold goal of reaching five million users by 2020.