One Tiny Drop Changes Everything – Elizabeth Holmes

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014

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Key Lesson: Believe in yourself. To make things happen, you have to have conviction. It’s up to you.

Are you afraid of needles?

It is estimated that some 40-60% of Americans don’t get requisitions for blood work done because of fear of having blood drawn. Our Grounded Leader of the Week admits she hates needles. But she chose to do something about it in a really creative, wonderfully destructive way.

Elizabeth Holmes may sound like another techie whiz kid. But she is something special. Holmes started as a 19 year-old Stanford dropout with a big idea to effectively dismantle laboratory medicine. She is described as coming from the same mold as Steve Jobs. Not only is Holmes determined and persistent, she believes she is doing what she was born to do.

Here’s how she frames the problem she is solving: “When someone you love gets really, really sick, usually by the time you find that out, it’s too late to be able to do something about it.” Laboratory data drives upwards of 80% of clinical decisions. The problem lies in timing, detection and action taking. Holmes started her company, Theranos, to create actionable information that would be accessible to people at the time it really matters. She set out to revolutionize testing by using tiny blood draws and offering near-instantaneous results empowering people to have control over their health. Theranos’ model includes wellness centers, patient empowerment and drastic cost reductions. Holmes describes how it works: “In the morning a patient could come to a wellness center and we could draw a sample. The physician could say on their requisition that if this is out of range, automatically run this other test. And that afternoon, when the physician sees the patient, they have all of that information.” The company plans to charge less than 50 percent of the standard Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

For the past 11 years, Holmes, now 30, has been (very) quietly building Theranos, Her board of directors and investors is a who’s who list of American notables — Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle to name a few. In September, 2013, Theranos announced it’s wellness centers partnership with Walgreens.  Last April, a government rule stipulating that patients nationwide can view their test results without their doctor’s authorization went into effect. This ruling makes Theranos perfectly positioned to achieve their mission of getting test results to patients quickly, at low prices and at the time it matters.

Holmes has been in “stealth mode” for the past 11 years building, testing, doggedly persisting with her mission to improve the patient experience.  Her drive to change the world, to make it a better place looks to be unfolding and we now get to watch.

Elizabeth Holmes is our Grounded Leader of the Week for believing in herself. She is using her engineering and technical skills, her youth, her single-mindedness and her ability to connect with people that believe in her to solve a huge societal healthcare problem.

Elizabeth Holmes – Progressing as a Teenage Entrepreneur


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