Walgreens To Roll Out Blood Test Services Across All Stores


Walgreens today announced that it will partner with blood test innovator Theranos to roll out minimally invasive blood tests across its 8,200 stores. The tests will be will be available on a walk-in basis, and will reportedly cost 50 to 90 percent less than the Medicaid reimbursement rate.  

Theranos, a Palo Alto-based healthcare company, was founded in 2003 by a then 19-year old Stanford University drop out named Elizabeth Holmes. Ten years later, and Elizabeth is the youngest billionaire in the US, worth $9 billion as the founder of Theranos, according to Forbes. The has raised $400 million in equity funding since its launch, and recently found success after finalizing an analyzer that can run 70 blood tests on a  sample that is 1/1000 the size of today’s typical blood draw. The sample size required is so small that patients can skip the needle altogether and provide a simple finger stick blood drop, from which an entire array of tests can be processed in just a few hours. The analyzer is FDA approved, and Theranos is now moving head first into the commercialization of its new technology.

The idea of offering a blood testing in a consumer-facing environment like Walgreens is nothing new. Quest Labs and others have offered community-based lab services for years. What differentiates the Walgreens-Theranos partnership is that the two have managed to keep pricing low enough that insurance, and thus doctors referrals, are not needed. For a Complete Blood Count, Theranos charges just $4.45 while a Basic Metabolic Profile costs $5.82. By partnering with Theranos, Walgreens will be first to market with a low-cost, direct-to-consumer option for blood testing.

What remains to be seen is if there is demand for such tests. With notably poor health literacy rates persistent across the country, it would be reasonable to expect that many patient’s would not know what tests to order, or what the results meant when they received them. Walgreens will likely have to invest heavily in improving its customers basic health knowledge before it sees much demand for self-pay lab tests.

The announcement is just one in a long line of recent changes that Walgreens has announced as it spars with CVS in a digital health arms race. Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault recently said that his company would look completely different in just five years, as it transforms itself from a local drug store into a major player in the care delivery space. In addition to its Theranos partnership, Walgreens has also recently announced a corporation-wide, cloud-based EHR rollout, along with several other digital health initiatives.

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