This CEO wants us to know as much about our bodies as we do about our credit cards

October 8, 2014, 5:59 PM UTC
Krista Kennell/Fortune Most Powerful Women

It’s time for people to know more about their bodies, and that starts with medical testing, said Elizabeth Holmes, CEO and Founder of medical-testing company Theranos at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit on Wednesday.

“We know more about our credit cards than we know about our bodies,” she added.

Holmes, who Fortune profiled earlier this year, has been upending how the medical industry looks at laboratory testing. Theranos, the company she founded when she was 19 years old, developed a process to run the full scope of medical lab testing using only the smallest sampling of blood. There’s no needles, no hassle and no stress.

The company has designed a new process that makes customer data more readily available with a streamlined, end-to-end service. Customers enter one of Theranos stand-alone clinics, where they are greeted with calming music, fish tanks and “lots of bamboo,” Holmes said. They have their finger pricked and droplets of blood are put in a very small container — what Holmes called a “nano-tainer” — for testing. Those results are then made available through a smartphone app, as well as other traditional methods.

It’s a customer experience that some have described as “fun,” according to Holmes. The Theranos process is a far cry from the sterile needles, long waits and re-booked appointments that are common–and that’s the point. Everything has been engineered to be as easy and accessible.

“Fundamentally, the answers to our challenges in healthcare relies in engaging and empowering the individual,” she said.

The heart of Theranos’s business model is behavior change, and Holmes believes that engagement is the first step to knowledge that can bring that change.

In addition, all of this costs only pennies on the dollar as compared to traditional lab testing. Theranos offers its tests at 50% of the total Medicaid reimbursement rate, and has begun dropping that price to more that 90% off the typical Medicaid reimbursement rate in certain cases. A complete blood cell count is $4. That’s a fraction of the standard $45 cost for a national lab testing company, according to the Healthcare Bluebook.

This low-cost, customer-friendly model is expanding. Theranos recently signed a deal with Walgreen to deploy its clinics nationally across its 8,100 Walgreens stores. That would place a Theranos facility within 5 miles, on average, of every American.

The low-cost pricing will also help the company push out internationally, where affordable and immediate clinical results are desperately needed. A $10 tuberculosis testing is too expensive in many places, and Theranos wants to make sure it’s accessible.

“Being able to operate at that realm is at the core of what we’re doing,” said Holmes. Theranos’ mission is about getting “access to information that fundamentally means you don’t have to say goodbye too soon.”

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