Blood Tests Could Soon Be As Easy As A Trip To Walgreens

A little-known healthcare start-up is slowly setting the stage to transform blood tests.

Theranos, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that offers about 153 tests for under $10, scored two major coups in the past week. First, they won FDA approval for their patented technology that performs complex medical tests using just a few drops, rather than a few vials, of blood. It’s first application, named in the FDA announcement, extends to the company’s herpes simplex 1 test.

While FDA approval isn’t necessary to operate, the decision validates the result of Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes’ decade-long research, which aims to replace the need for intravenous blood draws with a simple, painless finger stick.

In more news, a bill the company co-sponsored in Arizona, where Theranos operates 42 wellness centers, was signed into law. It allows state residents to pay for a lab test without requiring a doctor’s order or insurance company’s participation. Doctors don’t assume any liability for patients who choose to get tested on their own, and insurance companies are off the hook for payments, as the lab tests are paid for out of pocket.

There are two big reasons Americans should care about these new developments, explained Devon Herrick, a health economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis. For one, if Theranos does successfully roll out their finger-stick blood tests in more than 8,000 Walgreens stores throughout the nation (as they plan to), it means that millions of Americans could have easy, convenient access to low-cost blood tests, without having to visit a doctor first.

Practically, this means that a person who is closely monitoring his cholesterol levels could pay just $2.99 — half the Medicare rate — to get his numbers without paying a doctor —> Read More