Elizabeth Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos, a $9 billion dollar company that is contributing to the creation of a “consumer health technology” market by developing inexpensive and convenient blood tests. The Palo Alto, California based company recently teamed with the Cleveland Clinic in a long-term alliance to provide affordable and innovative lab services, a collaboration which has the potential to greatly influence personalised medicine in the United States.
Theranos is known for its ability to perform a full spectrum of laboratory tests using only a few drops of blood per sample, eliminating the need for multiple needles and vials. Tiny fingers sticks or the collection of “micro-samples” from veins reduce anxiety and pain for patients of all ages. Furthermore, the services are performed at prices which are 50 percent below Medicare reimbursement rates. The Theranos website states: “We believe access to accurate, affordable, real-time diagnostic information is a basic human right.”
In 2003, at the age of 19, Holmes left Stanford University’s School of Engineering to form Theranos, based on her vision of healthcare. For 11 years, she remained silent about the company rather than give competitors any edge. Her strategy is succeeding: in the past four years, the company has grown from 100 to 500 employees. Now that it has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and its Robert J. Tomsich Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute, the collaboration will allow the pursuit of clinical trials, research studies and the development of new tests.
“This alliance with a world-renowned health system like Cleveland Clinic furthers our mission, and is another step in our work to bring access to high-quality, affordable lab testing to everyone and help improve the quality and cost of care,” Holmes said in a recent press statement announcing the partnership.
The philosophy of Theranos is based on a seemingly simple concept: “if people can really begin to understand their bodies, that can help them change their lives.” The argument is that by manually checking their blood over time, individuals can detect changes that signal disease processes, and take action to prevent worsening conditions. This empowers patients by arming them with their own health information, so that they may participate in detection and intervention strategies.
Beyond the business concept, Holmes has set an example for women in leadership roles in healthcare and beyond. “If I can show that in this country, a 19-year-old girl can drop out of school and build something like this, then other women should be doing it.”
It is no wonder why a 2014 article published by Digital Health Post named Holmes one of its 12 Rock Star Women of Digital Health.
Image Credit: Forbes