Founded in 2016, Thriva’s mission is to prevent health issues before they occur by sending customers an at-home blood sampling kit each quarter. Available in the United Kingdom, customers self-draw blood into small collection tubes and mail them back to be analyzed. Even for folks who get yearly physicals, regular blood tests aren’t very popular, and this service provides an easy way to monitor changes in biomarkers (e.g. cholesterol buildup) before they manifest into more serious issues (e.g. blocked arteries).
Thriva has partnered with large, accredited private pathology labs in the U.K. — including TDL Pathology, Synlab, and County Pathology — to analyze these finger-prick blood samples sent from customers’ homes. Blood tests are the most common method to check for levels of biomarkers (or chemical indicators) such as cholesterol, glycated hemoglobin, and levels of vitamin B12. Abnormally high or low concentrations of biomarkers in the blood over long periods of time can be leading indicators of disease onset and progression.
Kits can be ordered online and Thriva offers three different plans that differ based on the number of analyzed biomarkers. Thriva’s packaging is superb – the instructions are easy to follow, and the Company provides tips for drawing blood more efficiently — for example, blood should be taken after a hot shower or bath, since warm water dilates blood vessels for faster blood flow.
Although I reside in the U.S., Thriva provided me a kit to test the blood sampling process. After disinfecting my finger, I used the lancet on my left ring finger. While the Company states that the spring-loaded lancet makes it easy to prick your finger, I will admit that it wasn’t easy for me to push the lancet down on my finger, and it did hurt. Thriva provides three lancets, and it took me two tries to get all the blood needed to reach the tube fill line. Because of the awkward angle of massaging my finger while positioning it to drip blood into the tiny tube opening, I lost a couple of drops to the outside of the tube and had to re-lancet myself once the first pierce coagulated. The whole sampling process took about 3-5 minutes.
Once done, I inverted the tube a few times and placed it inside a protective casing, ready to mail back. In total, the process took about 15 minutes to set up and complete. If you are in the U.K., you’ll get your personalized results within 48 hours. Another point which I’ll mention is that I did get a little queasy and light-headed after doing my own blood sampling. I actually think that if someone else had helped me and I didn’t have to look at my own blood while massaging my own finger, I would have felt fine.
After the sample is processed, a general practitioner reviews the results and if there is an opportunity to, will suggest health and lifestyle improvements. The levels of each biomarker are compared to recommended optimal levels, and Thriva subscribers have access to all their data in a secure online dashboard where results are tracked over time.
Proactively getting regular checkups is a great way to diagnose and combat diseases in their early stages. And as Thriva states, “monitoring your results over time gives you a better picture of your overall health.” This mail-order blood testing system is promising, as it is convenient. However, since samples are sent by mail, environmental and human factors may affect sample integrity and therefore the validity of test results. For instance, high summer temperatures or unforeseen delays may induce sample degradation.
Thriva co-founder and CEO Hamish Grierson has also acknowledged on the Company blog the differences between Thriva and Theranos. The biggest being that Theranos spent years developing its own blood testing abilities, “At Thriva, we have made the decision to partner with the leading pathology lab here in the UK whose tests, equipment and reliability standards have already been heavily scrutinised by the industry regulator and have passed with flying colours.” Also, Thriva collects more than a single drop of blood because its partner labs need more to run the tests with today’s machine accuracy.
As diagnostic techniques improve and become cheaper, biomarkers for other diseases (perhaps cancer and Alzheimer’s) can be added — subscribers may even have the chance to customize test kits. While meeting the optimal levels for each biomarker does not guarantee perfect health, it is a good start to diagnosing many common illnesses that affect people in the developed world like heart disease and diabetes. Thriva isn’t trying to reinvent lab testing, but it is reinventing the way people think about disease prevention through ease, data, and education.