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Can Walgreens and Silicon Valley Save Health Care?


The newest Silicon Valley health care venture offers a window into what the American medical system could become. The Singularity Hub reports that Walgreens is partnering with Theranos, a new company that has figured out how to automate automate all blood sample laboratory work. More:

Here’s how it works: Blood is drawn with a finger stick, rather than a needle in the arm. (It can also run urine tests with just a drop of that.) There are no botched sticks — of course, there are no phlebotomists, only machines, in Therenos labs.

The bad news for workers may be good news for accuracy because human handling of samples accounts for the lion’s share of variation among results, founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes saidlast week at a technology conference in New York. Automation eliminates spills, tests done in error and other mishandling of the sample.

Therenos posts the costs of its lab tests publicly, and the company charges much less than other labs for the same procedures. This is exactly the kind of partnership between technology companies and clinics that could help rationalize how we deliver care. A system populated with local clinics staffed with nurse practitioners using automated technology like Therenos would be a cheaper and more efficient than we now have. Without these changes in service delivery health care is going to get more and more expensive, no matter how we settle our national debates over how we pay for health care. With those changes, further federal health policy reforms will be easier to implement and more likely to get passed than they are now.

[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • ljgude

    These kind of development are all interesting but they only nibble around the edges of America’s high cost of healthcare. We spend $8500 per capita, the OECD average is $3300 And our health outcomes are no better.

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