Theranos is disrupting technology at its best. Almost. Theranos the company is a great idea that will make life easier, less expensive, and put power in the hands of people. Almost.
Explanation: Theranos is changing the way blood testing is done. Instead of big vials of blood, 48 hour wait time and big costs, they have developed a procedure to test blood from a micro sample, analyze results almost instantly and cut costs dramatically. It will be available at places such as Walgreens. Looks like the end of labs, couriers, high costs and 48 hour delays in getting your results. (Actually, I have no idea how long people wait for blood tests from a doctor’s office. I order my own and the results are emailed to me in 48 hours. YMMV).
So far so good. Faster, cheaper and less painful. Can’t argue with that. But here’s the problem:
On their website, Theranos says, “We believe you have the right to your own health information.”
I want to say to that – of course we do. Who would think otherwise? But I live in a parallel universe when it comes to medical care, so bear with me. Yet, everywhere I look on their website I keep seeing sentences reflecting the status quo, the accepted medical paradigm: you are a patient and a doctor will be involved.
Here’s the way it works, according to their site:
“You can make an appointment or simply walk into any Theranos Wellness Center with any paper order given to you by your doctor. Or you can simply have your doctor submit your order electronically. And since we’re open early mornings, nights, weekends, even some holidays, we’re always easy to fit into your schedule.”
Where does that leave me? And all the rest of us that believe we have a right to our own health information (and not just as a slogan) – as well as health care. I order my own tests, decide what I need. I don’t beg a doctor for a test, I just order it. I don’t wait for anyone to charge me for the right to order a test and have to explain why I need it. Life Extension has changed the game by allowing the consumer to bypass the middleman: the MD. see www.lef.org. For $4.50 a month (cancel anytime) you can order your own lab tests, including cancer tests from a local lab. I live in downtown Palo Alto and can walk to my lab. (Lab Corp)
Look at this – how is this putting power in the hands of people?
– We’ve beeen working to create a system designed to help you and your doctor know more
– Your results are delivered to your doctor electronically within minutes after our lab completes your tests.
– When your doctor releases your results,
– With Theranos, you and your doctor can get answers back fast.
When asked to fill out a form on the site to get more information the choices are Provider, Patient, or Other.
UGH. I am OTHER. But I am not an Other. If people are to be empowered we are people, not patients. I am no one’s patient.
Unless you have experienced the freedom of really being in charge of your own medical care you cannot understand why I hesitate to endorse yet another system of “you and your doctor”. I had my genetic testing done at 23andme It’s $99 and I get hundreds of data points. I know more about my health than a zillion doctor visits could provide. I can change my diet or lifestyle to impact my genetics – the field of epigenetics is my new interest. I can download my raw data. I can let geneticgenie.org have access to it and in 10 seconds I have my methylation analysis and detox analysis (yes, I have mutations – and oh what a difference it makes in what I do to know this. It matters whether I take folic acid or methylfolate, for example.) And I have mutations in my detox pathways which explains a lot. But what doctor knows about this? Damn if I know one here. Do you?
When my friend tested he was high risk for Type 2 diabetes. When he went into Stanford he was given a drug that causes diabetes. We told his doctors and offered them the genetic tests (same ones used to teach at Stanford). The MD’s said, “NO, we don’t care and we don’t want to see the genetic test results.” They gave him the drug, and when he came out I ordered a blood test for him and he was now diabetic. Then he developed diabetic neuropathy in his hand and had to quit his job. I would never have allowed the drug, but he has a case of white coat syndrome. He couldn’t believe the Stanford doctors would actually give him a drug known to cause diabetes. But they did and when they called to talk to me about him and I reminded them of his risk, they shined it on and said, “Well, we are in fact increasing the dosage.”
This is stupidity at its institutional worst. It is incomprehensible that such a violation of medical ethics goes on. My friend, a judge, said, “Sue.” I would but it isn’t me, it is my friend and he is less proactive in such matters. My engine of injustice revs at a higher level.
I give this example to say, Theranos, you are brilliant in your tech. I applaud what you have done and the disruption you provide. But OMG = we do NOT need the middleman here. Take a page from Life Extension and find a way to really empower people and really make a difference. How can people like me use your tech?
I know – you don’t need me. I project huge success for you – and you will deserve it. After all, the arena needs change and you are providing it in an excellent manner and most people trust a doctor for ordering tests (and yes, there are laws) but oh, we really need disruption when it comes to medical empowerment and Obamacare is not it. Obamacare reminds me of the old joke: Yes, the food was bad, but there was a lot of it.
I digress. Congratulations, Theranos, but help me too.
SEE the Theranos post on the very interesting Board of Directors: The Theranos Board