Lab Testing Reinvented: Q&A with Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos

The United States spends more on healthcare than any other Western nation – more than two and a half times the amount spent by most developed countries. Even so, most Americans do not have access to quality, timely care. Patients seeking care face unpredictable costs for even the most routine diagnostic procedures, like blood testing.

These hurdles are so prohibitive that seeking out healthcare is often viewed as a last resort – an option to be considered only when symptoms appear. In some cases, this can be too late. Elizabeth Holmes reminds us that access to affordable, preventive care is a human right. It is this right – the right to be as healthy as possible – that is at the root of her mission to make actionable health information accessible to everyone at the time it matters.

At TEDMED 2014, Elizabeth talked about this right and the importance of enabling early detection and empowering individuals to make educated decisions about their healthcare.

Elizabeth Holmes, TEDMED2014. Photo, Jerod Harris, TEDMED.

Elizabeth Holmes, TEDMED2014. Photo, Jerod Harris, TEDMED.

We reached out to her with a couple of follow up questions about her work and her company, Theranos.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

We believe the right to protect the health and wellbeing of every person – of those we love – is a basic human right. Yet, in the United States today, healthcare is the leading cause of bankruptcy. Similarly, lack of healthcare is the leading cause of the suffering associated with finding out too late in the disease progression process that someone you love is really, really sick. We believe that every individual has a right to accurate, affordable, real-time health information before people become so sick that it is too late to change outcomes.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

Our mission at Theranos is to make actionable information accessible to everyone at the time it matters most. Theranos is a new paradigm of diagnosis, in which every person will be able to see the onset of disease in time for therapy to be effective. Through it, we see a world in which no one ever has to say “goodbye” too soon, and people are able to leverage engagement with their health to live their best lives.

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” –The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, Point 1.