A trial of Dip.io’s UTI (urinary tract infection) test kit has been launched in selected pharmacies across London, Sheffield and Cardiff.

The Dip UTI test kit combines the traditional dipstick test used by GPs, a no-mess pop-up cup to collect a urine sample, and an app with the latest scanning technology and a virtual nurse to talk users through the test.

The Dip UTI test kit will cost £9.99 to buy. For users then needing antibiotics, an additional £14.99 will be charged to use the pharmacy service including the cost of the antibiotics.

Dip.io was selected to join the NHS Innovation Accelerator in 2017, and is represented by Fellow Katherine Ward. Dip.io’s technology is currently being used within the NHS to monitor diabetes and kidney transplant patients.

The potential of the Dip UTI test kit for improved care and cost savings is enormous. UTI is one of the most common bacterial infections seen by family doctors and accounts for up to 3% of all GP visits. One in three women will experience a UTI before the age of 24 and one in two women will develop at least one infection in their lifetime.

UTIs can be diagnosed on symptoms alone, but Public Health England endorses the Royal College of Practitioners guidelines, which recommend using a urine dipstick test to confirm the infection.

UTI symptoms account for as many as 10.2 million GP consultations in England alone, but only half the women who present with warning signs such as frequency and pain on urination actually have an infection and would benefit from antibiotics.

Dr Gill Jenkins, a GP says:

“The Dip UTI test kit is more accurate than visually reading the dipstick test, and accurate diagnosis is important on two counts. It reduces the risk of antibiotics being prescribed to women who don’t need them and it minimises the dangers associated with denying antibiotics to those who do need them.”

As part of the new Test-and-Treat service, women who suspect they have a UTI will be assessed by a specially trained pharmacist. If there are no ‘red-flag’ symptoms or complications – such as diabetes – they will be offered the opportunity to buy the kit.

Once patients have downloaded the Dip UTI app, a virtual nurse called Emily talks them through the test and helps them to avoid common pitfalls associated with urine-analysis dipsticks – which traditionally rely on trained medical staff being able to assess which colour block on a guide is closest to the shade revealed on the reagent strip. However, as we all see colours very differently, even those people who are medics, it is no surprise that data has revealed there are significant variations in the way dipstick urine tests are interpreted visually, which is why a digital analyzer provides a more accurate testing programme.

Virtual nurse Emily tells users exactly how long to dip the reagent strip, when to place it in the colour-board provided, and when to use their phone to scan and confirm the results. Users cannot move to the next information screen without confirming they have understood and carried out the instructions at each stage. The app provides a far more accurate interpretation of any changes because it references coloured squares on the colour-board provided to eliminate any variations due to different lighting conditions and phones.

Laboratory tests and clinical trials confirm the results are as consistent and accurate as digital analysers, which are more accurate than visual readings.

In 720 checks, the Dip UTI test kit recorded an exact match in 99.64% of cases and the correct colour block in 100%. Another test, which compared results using 21 different phones, produced an exact match in 99.4% of samples. And to ensure different lighting conditions would not affect the result, 440 sticks were tested under ten different illumination settings, resulting in 99.52% exact matches and 100% colour-block matching.

Katherine Ward, NIA Fellow and the Chief Commercial Officer of Healthy.io – the company behind the new test kit, says:

“What is really exciting about the Dip UTI test kit is that it is not some incredibly expensive new technology, and it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It is simply an intelligent way to allow customers to conduct the dipstick test themselves. By doing so they may significantly shorten the time for treatment.”