The democratization of health care via labs

In 1930, 40% of all doctor-patient interactions were through house calls. One way to think about today's patient engagement engagement trend is that is a return to the industry's roots. We are once again bringing the solution to the problem. But this time around, patient are empowered to take control of their health via mobile devices and  portable sensors.

 

While much wellness information is available to patients, lab tests remain stubbornly centralized.  Around 75% of clinical decisions made by physicians are supported by lab tests. Some 6.8 billion lab tests are run each year, representing over 2% of health spending.

 

What if you could access the power of a lab test, on demand, in your home? You might be able to detect early warning signs of a disease emerging or monitor progress of an existing care plan. A fascinating Wall Street Journal article profiled a company that might just make that happen. 

Theranos is a life sciences start-up founded by Elizabeth Holmes -- a 29-year old chemical and electrical engineer. The Theranos approach allows care providers to quickly run a vast array of of highly accurate lab tests using a relatively tiny sample of blood. The cost? 50% of whatever Medicare pays. Boom. Over 10 years, this alone could save Medicare and Medicaid over $150B. 

 

Undercutting the incumbant lab vendors is just the beginning. The ultimate goal is to bring the power of labs closer to the consumer. To that end, Theranos lists all prices on its website. Check out the $9.21 lipid panel:

 

The company recently announced a partnership with Walgreens to bring the lab services directly to drug store visitors. 

The next logical step is to bring them to the home. The company hasn't announced anything yet on this front, but a quote in the WSJ article provides some hints of what it might be:

 

The other obvious tech reality is that the devices keep shrinking, and over the last several years Theranos has been granted several patents for portable diagnosis system at the point of care. One of them even invokes—forget the iWatch—a wearable diagnostic device that would attach to the body with silicon microneedles "about the size of a human hair."

 

That could be interesting.