News Feature | July 24, 2015

Theranos Pushing Direct-To-Consumer Blood Testing

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

EHRs With Clinical Decision Support Provide Better Care

Direct-to-consumer blood testing options will be available to 1.3 million enrollees.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, is aiming to further disrupt the diagnostic testing industry through a partnership with Capital BlueCross of Harrisburg, PA. The goal is to provide direct-to-consumer blood testing options to 1.3 million enrollees, according to Healthcare Finance.

Theranos gained FDA approval recently for her new technology, which can screen for hundreds of diseases and conditions with only a finger prick’s worth of blood at prices set at no more than half of what Medicare pays, according to company claims.

Speaking at the annual America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute meeting in Nashville, TN, Holmes said, “We have to provide direct access to testing, to facilitate a new era of individual-physician partnership around preventative care.” She went on to say the new technology has great possibilities, adding, “Great change is possible and we can build a system that is transparent, engages consumers, and embraces scientific advancement.”

The tests have already been made available direct-to-consumers and to physicians at Walgreens clinics in Palo Alto, CA and throughout Arizona. In Central Pennsylvania, the tests will be available at Capital BlueCross’s health and wellness retail stores and through a network of Theranos Wellness Centers, and the company recently signed a strategic alliance with the Cleveland Clinic.

Still, the efficacy of the new technology remains uncertain, particularly since Theramos has not yet released any data regarding results. “It’s impossible to comment on how good this is going to be – it may be wonderful and it may bomb, but I really can’t be more definitive because there’s nothing to really look at, to read, to react to,” Dr. David Koch, president of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry and a professor at Emory University, told Business Insider in April.

“Our members will have easy access to best quality and most convenient testing and will know up front how much their out of pocket payments may be, including precise deductibles,” said Capital BlueCross CEO Gary St. Hilaire. “As an insurance provider, it is important for us to partner with companies who are using innovation to address and solve the toughest problems in healthcare.”

But while Theranos has great ambitions regarding growth, that capacity is somewhat limited by states that don’t allow DTC testing. Ten states allow consumers limited access to testing without a provider’s authorization. Twenty-seven states plus D.C. allow consumers to order tests directly, and 13 states prohibit testing entirely without a physician order, according to Theranos.