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We used to go to the cinema, now we have Netflix at home. It's so easy and healthcare should be exactly the same

LetsGetChecked founder Peter Foley on testing brainchild that helped bring golf back to our screens this summer

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Passing the test with flying colours: Peter Foley

Passing the test with flying colours: Peter Foley

Passing the test with flying colours: Peter Foley

Rory McIlroy might have skipped the last two Dubai Duty Free Irish Opens but played a key role in the European Tour being able to return to action at all this year.

The Co Down man (31) was a Series A investor in the Irish home-testing company LetsGetChecked which helped the European Tour and the PGA Tour return to our television screens this summer.

LetsGetChecked is the brainchild of Dubliner Peter Foley (34), who couldn't understand why people were still queuing in doctors' surgeries and hospitals for diagnostic tests.

By November 2015 he had put about €80,000 of his own money into the venture, securing €350,000 in seed capital to allow people to order home tests for STDs and the other problems connected with prostate and breast cancer.

In 2018 the Dún Laoghaire-based start-up raised another $12 million (€9.7 million) in funding led by Optum Ventures, which backs high-potential health tech firms and counts McIlroy as one of its ambassadors and investors.

But following another $30 million round of investment in 2019, the company raised $71 million (€65.4 million) in a funding round last May as it moved into testing for Covid-19.

"We have about 400 staff now between the US and here," said Glenageary native Peter, who freely admits that he has little interest in golf but is now the envy of his golf mad relatives having been whisked to Florida last year for the Players Championship and this year helped the PGA Tour and the European Tour return to action.

It's a remarkable success story for Irish business and for world golf, which was one of the first sports to return to action last May when the PGA Tour staged the TaylorMade Driving Relief event at Seminole in Florida when McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff played a skins matched that raised more than $5.5 million for Covid-19 relief funds.

"We set it up just to get diagnostics into the home for consumers," explains Peter, whose interest in sport was limited to his school days playing wing forward for his alma mater St Michael's College. "When the pandemic broke it felt like we spent the last five years building the business just for this scenario. We are super fortunate we were in a position to help.

"The largest part of what we do is in the US. That's where our laboratory and manufacturing is, though we have manufacturing in Ireland as well. We have done a huge amount of Covid testing in the US and we have been able to help a few organisations latterly in Europe, such as the PGA European Tour, helping them get going again and allowing people to watch golf again.

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"I got put in touch with the European Tour's chief medical officer, Andrew Murray. They were looking for a solution at the time and we were able to point them in the direction of what we were doing in the US.

"We had just done the TaylorMade Driving Relief event in Florida in May and then we did The Match when Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning played Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. So we got put in touch with the European Tour to help for situations where people are coming from home and going back on tour and that's where it came full circle."

LetsGetChecked's connection with golf and its famous bubble has been a huge help to the company in raising awareness of home-testing for a huge range of health issues, easing pressure on health systems.

"It's brought the entire industry forward five or ten years," added Peter, who is based in Dublin. "I don't know how much marketing money you would have to spend to drive awareness of tele-health services but it would have taken a lot of money and time.

"I think everybody knows what it is now and everyone knows that's the way healthcare has had to move. It's been a great experience to be able to help out. We set the business up to ultimately help people and with this scenario we've had a chance to do that."

Early detection is key when it comes to life-threatening illnesses and with people becoming increasingly busy in their working lives, setting aside time to visit the doctor or book in for a health test has become problematic for many.

"I just don't think you should have to think about it," Peter explained. "We used to go to the cinema, now it's Netflix. These things are now in our homes. It's just so effortless and health care should be exactly the same. We know you should be having a colon cancer test and a diabetes test every year. The thought is, you don't have to think about that.

"We manage that for you and once a year or once a quarter, that type of test will arrive in your home and you access our clinical team through your phone on a mobile app. Too many people die of stage four bowel cancer. If you get diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer it is fatal. If you get diagnosed with stage one bowel cancer, you survive. There are just no excuses for that. It is just such an easy test to do.

"But if people have to think about it and have to go somewhere for that, you are just creating this friction where they are just going to drop off and it won't happen. There are countless examples of that whether it is people getting a heart attack too young, or getting a stroke. There are all these different things where with a diagnostic, if you have the information, you will act differently so you will have a better outcome.

"It is too much of an effort. You have to book in to your doctor and do all these things. So with entertainment coming to your home, healthcare has to be in your home and part of your everyday life. That's how we think about it."

As for golf, Foley has no plans to pick up a club just yet but he does have a new appreciation for the sport.

"I'd be lying if I told you I like golf," he said with chuckle. "I have an uncle who plays out in St Anne's and he was a bit envious when he heard Optum brought me to Florida."

As for Ireland's response to Covid-19, he said: "Compared to what is going on in the US, we have done an amazing job. It's so hard to manage but you can't underestimate the power of following those guidelines. Just wear a mask. It's basic, but it works."


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