Cure for “Needle Phobia” Rocks Healthcare

October 6, 20150 Comments

bigstock-Doctor-holding-medical-injecti-49063448-996x497Are you afraid of needles? Turns out there an actual recognized medical condition called “needle phobia” and about 30 million people in the US suffer from it.  Doctors deal with it every day because many fearful patients don’t follow through with their doctor’s lab requisitions. Consequently, medical conditions go undiagnosed until they become emergencies. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole needle experience was eliminated and the doc just pricked your finger for a single drop of blood?

You know the old saying, “find a need you can fill and get rich.” Well, Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes (knowingly or unknowingly) saw a need and tapped into this huge healthcare market. Holmes started her company, Theranos, at the age of 19, (using her remaining tuition money). Now, at 30 years of age, she is a billionaire. Holmes success is driven by her personal fear of needles, and her desire to be a disruptor. As a college sophomore, she envisioned a way to reinvent old-fashioned phlebotomy (drawing blood), and lead the way to preventative medicine and comprehensive, super-fast technology.

By using merely one-drop-of-your-blood, Theranos is sending the $53 billion dollar medical testing industry on a tilt-a-whirl ride. Holmes is leading the charge towards the company’s goal to save Medicare $98 billion and Medicaid $104 billion over the next decade. How? By patients walking into their local Walgreens Pharmacy and giving a single drop of blood, Theranos can run hundreds of blood tests at a fraction of the cost. Traditionally, blood results have taken days or weeks, requiring fearful patients to fill several vials of blood, and then spend hundreds (to thousands) of dollars to get the results.

What can you learn from Theranos success?

  • Buck Conventional Wisdom: Theranos challenged the amount of blood needed for effective testing.
  • Transparency: Transparency breeds trust. The cost of every available test is listed on their web site.
  • Affordability: Tests range from a few dollars to $50, which is about 50% less than standard Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and a fraction of the consumer rate charged by giants like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.
  • Convenience: Partnering with Walgreens, the largest retail pharmacy, with more than 8,100 stores nationwide, brings extreme convenience to patients.
  • Speed and Accuracy: By reducing human error rates and increasing speed through automation, Theranos can deliver results in hours, and immediate run follow-up tests using just a single original drop of blood.
  • Multiple Revenue Streams: Theranos is just entering the consumer’s consciousness, but has been working with pharmaceutical companies for years, providing timely data to clinical trials.
  • Customer Experience: Besides eliminating the ‘needle fear factor,’ lab results are provided directly to patients and/or their doctors, eliminating the need for another costly trip to the doctor to obtain lab results.
  • Strong Leadership: Theranos has carefully built a stellar Board of Directors, including elder statesmen George Shultz and Henry Kissinger.
  • Business Savvy-ness: Holmes has chosen a growing industry (think Baby Boomers) with stale competition. Medical Testing is dominated by two giants, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics. However, their combined growth rate in 2015 was only .4%.

Oh, and Elizabeth Holmes is serving a major benefactor…humanity. Holmes has removed the patient’s fear of getting necessary blood work; thus empowering the patient to help preserve their own best health. Holmes explained, “We want to be able to detect conditions in time to do something about them and provide access to information that can empower people to improve their lives.”

Ross Shafer is a popular keynote speaker and author of Are You Relevant? Absolutely Necessary, Nobody Moved Your Cheese, The Customer Shouts Back, and Grab More Market Share. To contact Ross: Call (910) 256-3495 or email

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