Creative Disruption? She's 29 and Set to Reboot Lab Medicine

Elizabeth Holmes plans to revolutionize testing by using tiny blood draws and offering near-instantaneous results

; Elizabeth Holmes


November 18, 2013

In This Article

Partnering With Walgreens

Ms. Holmes: We formalized a partnership, which we recently announced, with Walgreens in the retail pharmacy space to distribute this infrastructure across the country so that it could become more accessible to people. Today it's not possible to do lab tests, in many cases, late at night or on a weekend. As a result, it becomes more difficult for people to be compliant with fulfilling a requisition from the physician for doing a test. So we looked at the combination of the tiny sample with distributed locations as a tool for being able to help create access.

Then we focused a great deal on these tests and validated and verified them over the years, building an infrastructure that was highly automated and standardized such that the quality of the data that we generate could be used in an actionable manner by clinicians. We have worked to minimize much of the variability that is associated with preanalytic processing and some of the influences on variability in lab data, such as temperature or human error.

Dr. Topol: There are more pieces, but to start, you were going to make it eminently more accessible using the every-corner-drugstore kind of model. The second piece is that you would make the actual draw of minimal blood a tiny fraction of what it would normally be, and painless, or close to painless. Another was that you were going to make the actual assays more accurate and more precise.

You've got a lot there, but that's not all. The next thing is the patients or consumers -- getting their information back to them, because a lot of patients have a hard time getting access to their lab test, right?

Ms. Holmes: Yes.

Dr. Topol: Do you think we can ever get to the point where consumers can order their own blood tests?

Ms. Holmes: We think it's hugely important. We believe fundamentally, at our core, that access to high-integrity diagnostic information is a basic human right and that people should have access to this information, so that we can help to catch many of these diseases earlier. Currently, our tests are all physician-directed.

Dr. Topol: Right, and I know the Medscape audience would agree with that largely, but I think you've also brought up another point, which is that sometimes a person might know that the blood test information could really help them. And it's hard to get ahold of the physician, and they are not getting the kind of cooperation and support they need.

Transparent Pricing on Lab Tests

Dr. Topol: Another piece of [what you've created] is that all of the pricing is transparent, which isn't the case today in laboratory medicine.

Ms. Holmes: Yes. The pricing was a huge area of focus for us because we worked for many years to bring down our cost structure so that we could, for the first time, begin to bill Medicare and Medicaid at significantly less than their current reimbursement thresholds and make the commitment that anyone -- whether they are uninsured or insured or have any other situation -- they get the same price. That is something that is really important to us, along with this theme of access.


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