March 20, 2014
Theranos: Blood Testing Evolved
No one likes getting blood work done. Despite the wealth of insight that doctors are able to glean from testing your blood, it’s never fun to have them take it out of you. For some, it’s an irritant. For others, it’s terrifying. When I was younger, a nurse at a local clinic took five tries just to find a vein. Five tries. Sure, I am a big guy and my veins like to not cooperate, but five tries? First try, miss. Second try, miss. Third try, busted the vessel. Fourth try, hit bone (ouch). Fifth try, missed and poked out through the side of my arm. She had the shakiest hands I have ever seen. When asked if I would be okay with a sixth try, I told her “no” and requested for the doctor to do it himself. You want to know how many tries it took him? One. Getting blood drawn is a necessary irritation that you have to deal with during most clinical check ups. Unfortunately, the amount of blood that is drawn and the time it takes for you to get the results from the test back are both excessive, but what other option do you have?
Well, now you have Theranos.
Theranos is a blood test developed by one Elizabeth Holmes, who felt that having to wait days or even weeks for information that could be vital to a patient’s health was unacceptable. According to Holmes, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “The art of phlebotomy – a originated with bloodletting in 1400 B.C. and the modern clinical lab emerged in the 1960s, and it has not fundamentally evolved since then.” Unlike traditional blood tests, which can take up to 45 times as much blood as the tests actually need, Theranos takes only the smallest amount needed and tests them on sight, cutting down on potential discomfort for patients as well as the time it takes to get the results back. In most cases, the results are back and given to the patient by the time they are leaving the clinic. Best of all, Theranos does not cut any corners by leaving out any “unnecessary” tests. Theranos tests for all the same abnormalities that a traditional test does, but thanks to their on-sight facilities and how little blood actually needs to be drawn, costs are cut down exponentially. For example, typical cholesterol and HDL measurements might cost the patient up to 30 dollars out of pocket, but with Theranos it costs only $2.99. In one specific instance, a woman in California who was asked to pay $4,000 for tests at a different lab came to a Theranos facility and paid only $260.00.
This past September, two Theranos facilities were in operation, according to Smithsonian Magazine. One in Palo Alto, California and another in Phoenix, Arizona, and there are plans to expand throughout 2014, with the goal being to have these facilities, offering quick and affordable testing to everyone, throughout the country.
Inexpensive blood testing that gets you your results back within hours instead of days or weeks? That sounds like a modern miracle to me.
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