HomePetLab by PennVet Diagnostics

At-home diagnostic tests for pet owners


This project was initiated by Dr. Shelley Rankin, Head of Diagnostic Services at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital. The diagnostic lab provides a wide array of traditional diagnostic services to veterinarians, but Dr. Rankin wanted my team to explore the possibility of a D2C model for providing pet owners with diagnostic services. Dr. Rankin, as well as my team, viewed this project as an intrapreneurship opportunity within the PennVet ecosystem, and as such, we treated the prompt as though we were building a startup.


The story of this project is really one of pivoting to find problem-market fit. Dr. Rankin gave us a topic and some ideas of her own, but as a team we wanted to validate the market need for this sort of service, so we could be confident we were designing a pull innovation as opposed to a push innovation. To do this, we started by identifying stakeholders and talking to as many of them as we could - pet owners, veterinarians, lab technicians, shelter owners, dog trainers etc. From these interviews we learned some key insights:

  • Pet owners rely on their vets to interpret their pets' condition, and struggle to empathize with their pet's health;
  • Booking, travelling to, and paying for vet visits are all pain points for pet owners;
  • Vets want to provide the "gold standard" of care, which includes doing sufficient diagnostics to treat the condition properly, but are often handcuffed by cost, time constraints, and their ability to sell the pet owner on the value of the test;
  • Because of a lack of proper veterinary practice, antimicrobial resistance is increasing in the animal population, and is expected to be a large issue in the coming decades

Partway through this project, the COVID-19 crisis hit. This was initially a frustration for the team to have to adapt our project and research methods to social distancing, but we also saw the pandemic as opening up a huge opportunity for this product: because of social distancing requirements, the FDA relaxed enforcement of VCPR regulations to allow veterinarians to practice telemedicine more widely. As vets transitioned to a remote care model, we increasingly began to hear that vets were frustrated by not being able to give appropriate care because they were unable to examine their patients or perform diagnostic tests. There was a clear pain point where the value proposition for televeterinary visits falls apart when diagnostic testing is needed because the televet either has to make a "best guess" empiric diagnosis, or the pet owner has to go into a physical veterinarian to get the testing done. 

With this new problem scope defined, the team ideated and iterated on potential solutions. Because we wanted to design a feasible and implementable solution, we needed to look at all aspects of the business, so we used the business model canvas to guide our ideation and build the end-to-end experience and business plan. Through a fake-front-door prototype and Google Ads campaign, the team tweaked the consumer-facing value proposition and learned how much consumers and veterinarians needed trust in the solution - something the PennVet brand brought along with it. 


HomePetLab is an at-home diagnostic sampling kit that enables diagnostic testing to be performed in remote televeterinary relationships. The kit contains everything a pet owner needs to collect samples from their pet and send them directly to the PennVet Diagnostic laboratory, where they will be processed and the results shared with the televet so she can make a proper, informed, diagnosis. The concept is currently in pilot testing in the PennVet ecosystem, allowing Penn-affiliated veterinarians to send kits to their clients that they can send back for testing. Considering this is an entirely new business model, the team has also developed a plan to prove the value proposition, validate the market need, de-risk the implementation of the product, and grow the customer base.