A deserved goring of whiz-bang unicorns Theranos and Zenefits (updated)

click to enlargeA blog posting this Editor wish she had written. Fred Goldstein, who is a consultant to healthcare systems focused on building accountability and improving population health, has pressed a sharp point to the sparkly bubbles surrounding two Silicon Valley billion-dollar valuation darlings, Theranos and Zenefits, on their playing fast and loose with basic regulations.

Some background for our readers. It’s a pile-on with Theranos, which has been stepped on by FDA for their nanotainers [TTA 20 Nov 15], then whacked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last month for ‘deficient practices’ at their California testing lab (a remedial plan has been filed this week) and likely losing its lucrative Walgreens Boots deal if problems aren’t fixed in 30 days (having already lost its program with Capital Blue Cross in the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania). According to Bloomberg, its proprietary testing is now used in only 1 of every 200 tests. Zenefits claims to be the ‘first modern benefits broker’ with cloud-based software designed to simplify and automate such HR tasks as health insurance signups for small businesses, but its software that facilitated skating around required licensure requirements by its staff got its CEO forced out by a key investor, Andreessen Horowitz. (And it gets worse…read on….)

It’s so…whiz-bang! (Updated) Your Editors, past and present, have made hash (corned beef and otherwise) of companies promising revolutions in healthcare since our inception. ‘Whiz bang’ is a term Mr Goldstein uses in this article to refer to them; with some satisfaction, we’ve used it in the same context since at least 2010. If they were aircraft, they’d be buzzing the runway to applause, then crashing in a nearby field. But his coining of Unicornius Gorus. The Self Goring Unicorn….ah, that does top all! The Health Care Blog. Also FierceMedicalDevices, Bloomberg on Theranos and Zenefits.

More on Theranos: Nanosamples don’t do the job, according to Rice University bioengineers in a study of the accuracy of single-prick blood samples published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. They found that multiple small samples weren’t identical in measurements like hemoglobin, white blood cell counts and platelet counts. It may be adequate for initial testing and for those in poor countries which need an economy alternative, but puts another hole in the showy Theranos promise. MedCityNews, New York Times

More on the hot mess that is Zenefits: The Daily Mail‘s exposé of their extreme party atmosphere. Interesting as this is an HR related company!

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