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Theranos: The Lab Test Reinvented

By HERWriter
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blood test Csaba Deli/PhotoSpin

Sponsored By: Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes is a woman driven by powerful forces. Today, Holmes is a 31-year-old woman who is revolutionizing the healthcare industry with a company grounded in technology and simplicity– Theranos.

What fuels passion like hers? It was reinforced at an early age when her beloved uncle died of brain cancer. Holmes reflects on loving memories of her uncle who had been so influential in her early years. His death had a powerful impact on her life direction. This impact has galvanized her sense of purpose, her sense of personal destiny, and her determination to make a difference.

Holmes spoke of this at a signing event on Monday, April 6, 2015 where the bill, Laboratory Testing Without Order, was signed into law.

"One day, he was diagnosed with skin cancer, which all of the sudden became brain cancer, and spread to his bones. He didn’t live to see his son grow up, and I never got to say 'goodbye.'”

Would things have turned out differently for Holmes’ uncle and the people who loved him if they'd had better access to his health information? Holmes' desire is to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

With a new method of taking blood samples, Holmes has developed a company that has the healthcare industry on the edge of its seat, anticipating the future. The name of her company, Theranos, is a blend of the words “Therapy” and “Diagnosis.” Theranos is all about detecting the onset of disease in time for therapy to be effective.

Theranos is a CLIA-certified laboratory and the first and only lab to proactively begin submitting all their Laboratory Developed Tests to the FDA for approval. Many Theranos tests require only a few drops of blood, and all their tests use dramatically smaller samples than traditional labs. So whether it’s a tiny micro-sample collected with a finger stick, or the smallest venous draw sample used by any lab anywhere, every Theranos test means less blood and an easier process. Holmes has a vision of a time in the future when all blood tests are performed in the simpler way made possible by Theranos.

Blood tests take place in a Theranos Wellness Center with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. This is happening presently in over 40 Walgreens stores throughout the Phoenix, Arizona region. The Theranos environment is very different from the clinical feel of a hospital or doctor's office - each space is designed to feel like a spa. Wall treatments are deliberately soothing, and chairs are made to be settled into comfortably. The atmosphere is serene.

Theranos treats its clients with respect, including a respect of their time. Wellness Centers are open early in the morning, and in the evenings as well as on weekends and some holidays. Testing is done with timely efficiency so that a client's blood work is completed quickly.

Holmes' goal is to make blood tests affordable and as painless as possible. The easier it is for people to get their blood work done, the more of them will do so. The more illness will be caught in earlier stages, the more people will be able to retain, or regain, their health.

Elizabeth Holmes is a young woman with a sense of mission and a zeal for empowering people so they are able to take their health into their own hands. She started young. Her parents had raised her to believe she could do anything.

Upon admission to Stanford, Elizabeth was named one of an elite group of “president’s scholars.” While still a freshman, she was allowed to work alongside PhD candidates doing research. That summer, she was able to study SARS in a lab at the Genome Institute in Singapore. Holmes’ first patent was filed before she started Theranos in 2003 and approved in November 2007.

In 2003, she dropped out of Stanford in her second year and began the process of creating her own company, Theranos. She was 19 years old when she became its CEO. At just 31 years old, Holmes is owner of more than half of the company. She touts the likes of Henry Kissinger and former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, William H. Foege, on her Board of Directors.

Holmes' eyes are bright, her blonde hair is pulled back and out of the way, she's characteristically dressed in classic, simple black. Her speech is bold, articulate and straight to the point, especially when she talks about her passion.

This is no doubt part of what has made Holmes the youngest female billionaire, on the Forbes 400 list. She has attained that position on her own merits, by her own work. But Holmes isn't in this for money. Her mission is to make actionable information accessible to everyone at the time it matters.

Holmes intends to overturn an outmoded, poorly functioning, exclusionary health care system. She is a champion for those who need access to superb health care, and need it now. That health care, she believes, should be easy to get to, affordable for everyone, and as swift and painless as possible.

People who are ill should be able to get blood work done in a less damaging way and get results faster to increase their opportunity to get early care that could save their lives.

Blood work in the United States has been done in much the same way since the 1960s, performed in doctors’ offices and in hospitals. For those who can afford to go, the process can be lengthy and difficult. Multiple vials of blood are taken using needles, blood is sent off to be tested, and it can take weeks to get results.

Being present with Governor Doug Ducey and leaders of the legislature when the bill, Laboratory Testing Without Order, was signed into law was a moment of tremendous significance for Holmes.

"This historic law will help show that a health care system based on prevention, transparency, and individual liberty -- giving people access to the information they’re entitled to and need to live healthier and longer lives -- is the future of health care," she said on that occasion.

Elizabeth believes Arizona’s law can serve as a model for the nation, by empowering individuals with the information they need to engage with their physicians early and in time to change outcomes.

Residents of Arizona are going to be able to directly order blood work beginning July 3, 2015. Theranos, under the guiding hand of Holmes, is doing its part by stepping up to provide their services to the public.

"My life’s mission in building Theranos is to change this outdated, expensive, and disenfranchising health care paradigm," Holmes continued. "I believe every individual has the right to access actionable health care information when they need it the most – to feel better, do more, and live better ... and at a time when they have an opportunity to change outcomes."

"Our work at Theranos is about access — eliminating the need for painful needles and vials of blood, replacing that with tiny samples taken in convenient locations at convenient hours of operation, always for a fraction of the cost charged elsewhere — to build a health care system in which early detection and prevention become reality," she said at the bill signing event.

Theranos is working to bring about a day when lab testing is accessible and affordable for everyone, so people can engage with their health and their doctors like never before. Theranos makes its prices available online. There is no confusion or uncertainty about price. Tests are less expensive, and everyone pays the same price. Holmes is convinced that everyone should have access to the information they need for their health and well-being – the earlier, the better.

"Today, we still define diagnosis of a disease by the presence of its symptoms," Holmes observed at the signing event. "But for millions of people just like my uncle, disease often begins much earlier than when the mole on the skin changes color, the foot starts to throb in pain, or when the shortness of breath makes playing with a niece or a nephew too difficult."

Holmes believes she is on this earth for a reason – to make a difference. And she is making a difference that may be felt by all Americans.



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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.