• Julie Barnes

March 4, 2022

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

Though we watched many episodes of the new series Vikings: Valhalla, it was difficult to find a proper health data theme in a show set in the 11th Century. This week’s launch of the Hulu series The Dropout, however, is all about new health tech. In this dramatized storytelling of the Theranos “Bad Blood” lab testing saga, actress Amanda Seyfriend’s performance as CEO Elizabeth Holmes is not nearly as upsetting as her singing was in Les Misérables. (We’re not just being mean, she admitted it, and she recovered nicely in Mamma Mia! but it was too hard to watch for Pierce Brosnan reasons). In the One Thoughtful Paragraph below, we explain how lab-developed tests like the failed idea behind Theranos need help in the health data department.

Other news about how novel lab tests are changing our lives:

  • The White House released a new get-back-to-normal-routines-plan, featuring a one-stop “test to treat” system at pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens and Walmart said they are participating) so people can test to see if they’ve got the virus and then get an antiviral treatment right then, at no cost. It is supposed to start in March, but there are few details about this so far.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported how the self-diagnostic product industry is taking off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Two big at-home diagnostic investments this week: Ro acquired an at-home testing company, Dadi, less than one year after acquiring Modern Fertility, and FemTec Health, a women’s health and beauty startup, launched Awesome Woman, a subscription-based brand that comes with unlimited telehealth services, at-home diagnostic tests, and personalized probiotics for $99 per month.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

The first episode of The Dropout skews the story of Elizabeth Holmes’ original idea a bit, saying that she wanted to create a lab testing device the size of an iPod to allow patients to test their own blood at home with just one drop. (The actual story is better told here, here.) The ensuing Theranos saga of defrauding patients and investors and its contributing role to the confusing regulatory oversight of lab-developed tests is what people talk about now. Still, there is no question that Theranos played a role in this super-fast, crazy-convenient, at-home lab test revolution we are experiencing. Setting aside the very real questions about whether it is a good thing that people can self-diagnose without a doctor’s order, and who should be paying for self-diagnosis, we are wondering how to track the maybe-very-important-lab-results that people throw in the trash with their empty toothpaste tubes. The CDC “strongly encourages” people to report their positive COVID-19 test results to a doctor -- but how many people are doing that? Helpfully, just a couple of weeks ago, NIH and public lab researchers celebrated a study that showed how reporting on self-testing was totally possible but would require a lot of commitment to get it up and running. If we are all just as committed to reporting at-home lab results as we are committed to making sure Pierce Brosnan is never again allowed to sing in a movie, we should be ok.

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