What it's like to get a drugstore test from the startup that's shaking up the medical industry
This is no fantasy. These tests, made by Theranos - the $9 billion startup founded by Elizabeth Homes - already exist, and if you live in Phoenix or Palo Alto, you can get one at drugstores with one of the startup's Wellness Centers.
In April, Arizona passed a bill that allows consumers to order any lab test without it having to be requested by a doctor. Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Theranos's Herpes test. Last week, the company partnered with Capital BlueCross, a Pennsylvania-based insurer that serves 725,000 customers.
Phoenix-based reporter Dan Munro visited his local Walgreens to get one of these tests. Here's how he described the experience in a recent Forbes article.
Step 1: Go to the pharmacy
"The Theranos Wellness Center inside the Walgreens I visited was small but very modern and comfortable," Munro wrote in Forbes. Since it's in a pharmacy, it was also open on a Sunday, unlike many doctor's offices.
Step 2: Fill out a form
Next, Munro filled out a form to specify which blood test he wanted. The options included a "menu" of different tests, including a basic test for $28.50, tests designed for men and women ($54.88 and $42.23, respectively). You could also order common tests individually.
The cheapest test was glucose ($2.70) and the most expensive was the sexual health test, at $59.95. (Theranos claims that the cost of their tests are at least 50% below Medicare reimbursement rates.)
Munro was given Theranos's 4-page Privacy Notice, and had to sign an Acknowledgment of Receipt. The pharmacist entered Munro's information, he paid for the test, and the order was submitted electronically.
Step 3: Get your finger pricked
Munro met the phlebotomist and taken to a room with a sliding door. He had to get his picture taken, probably as another way of ensuring his identity.
The phlebotomist was not aware of what test Munro was taking, for privacy reasons.
The test itself was pretty quick, Munro said: "My finger was wrapped in a small, chemically induced warming wrapper for a minute or two and then wiped with alcohol. A small, disposable lancet was then used to prick my finger and collect the small blood sample."
The entire test took 19 minutes, but Munro said it might have been less than 10 minutes if he hadn't been asking questions.
Step 4: Check results online
Munro was told he could access his results within 24 to 48 hours, using a special "visit code." After 27.5 hours, he got an email saying his results were ready. After logging into his Theranos account, he was prompted to set a new password. He downloaded an encrypted PDF with his results, and used the password to open the file.
Theranos has come under fire recently for being secretive about how its blood tests actually work. Nevertheless, the consumer experience appears to be pretty painless.
"The Theranos process really has removed much of the friction I associate with blood tests I have taken in the past," Munro wrote.
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