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17th November 2014

What does a “blood test revolution” look like?

There are a few things about healthcare that seem to be given. GPs have terrible handwriting and blood tests are slow and cumbersome.

Then there’s always that one person who sets out to change what seems to be unchangeable. Ms Holmes is one of those people. She’s 30, she’s a vegan who doesn’t like coffee, she dropped out of Stanford, and … oh yes, she is the founder of a 9 billion dollar company, Theranos.

Her idea? To turn blood test processes upside down, making them easier, more comfortable, cheaper, and faster.

The old way: You go to the doctor, he draws litres and litres of blood (ok maybe not, but  it sure feels like it) into vials. Then you wait and wait, days and weeks sometimes, until you hear back about the results. In many cases if you need more tests, you need to return to the hospital and another vial of blood is drawn. More tests, more blood. For something so common, it can seem remarkably inefficient.

“We know more about our credit cards than we know about our bodies.”

The new way: Well, for one, you don’t have to go to the doctor at all. Holmes’s idea would mean that we can go to a nearby pharmacy or Theranos walk-in point and get a simple finger prick, just like people who live with diabetes check their blood glucose levels.

A full blood count please … let’s add in cholesterol too

It’s not just the convenience. It’s a lot cheaper too. Theranos claims that they can run up to 30 tests on that single drop and have results delivered within 4 hours.

They list all their prices online (in US dollars): a cholesterol test comes from 2.99, iron for 4.45, herpes for 9.07 or a complete blood count for just over 3 dollars.

Giving people power and “a lot of bamboo”

People don’t only avoid blood tests because of their inefficiency, they shy away for a much simpler reason: they’re afraid of needles!

Although there have been several advancements with vaccine patches and other needle-free options, blood tests are still typically carried out with the good old-fashioned combination of needle and vial.

In an interview with Fortune, Holmes said she wants to switch from needles, stress and hassle to soft piano music, fish tanks and “a lot of bamboo.” Almost sounds like a spa rather than a walk-in clinic. But that’s how visionaries are born: by changing what seems to be unchangeable.

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