The Theranos Story, ch. 52: How Elizabeth Holmes became ‘healthcare’s most reviled’–HISTalk’s review of ‘Bad Blood’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/holmes-barbie-doll-1.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]A Must Read, even if you don’t have time for the book. During the brief Independence Day holiday, this Editor caught up with HISTalk’s review of John Carreyrou’s ‘Bad Blood’, his evisceration of the Fraud That Was Theranos and The Utter Fraud That Is Elizabeth Holmes. Even if you’ve read the book, it’s both a lively recounting of how the scam developed and the willingness–nay, eagerness!–of supposedly savvy people and companies to be duped. The reviewer also reveals that Mr. Carreyrou wasn’t the first to raise questions about Theranos after raves in the press and kudos from the prestigious likes of Eric Topol. Mr. Carreyrou’s first article was in October 2015 [TTA 16 Oct 15] whereas Kevin Loria wrote the first exposé in Business Insider on 25 April 15 which raised all the fundamental questions which Theranos spun, hyped, or otherwise ignored–and Mr. Carreyrou eventually answered. (Our blow by blow, from him and other sources, is here.)

The review also picks out from the book the scabrous bits of Ms. Holmes’ delusions; her makeover to become the blond Aryan female Steve Jobs mit Margaret Keane-ish waif eyes–something she took far too literally; the affair between her and Sunny Balwani, certainly in violation of the usual ethics–and her Hitler in the Bunker, April ’45 behavior as Theranos collapsed around her. 

The review concludes by telling the healthcare community something we need said plainly, often, and written in 50-foot letters:

Theranos is a good reminder to healthcare dabblers. Your customer is the patient, not your investors or partners. You can’t just throw product at the wall and see what sticks when your technology is used to diagnose, treat, or manage disease. Your inevitable mistakes could kill someone. Your startup hubris isn’t welcome here and it will be recalled with great glee when you slink away with tail between legs. Have your self-proclaimed innovation and disruption reviewed by someone who knows what they’re talking about before trotting out your hockey-stick growth chart. And investors, company board members, and government officials, you might be the only thing standing between a patient in need and glitzy, profitable technology that might kill them even as a high-powered founder and an army of lawyers try to make you look the other way.

In other words, what you (the innovator, the investor) is holding is not a patient’s watch, it could be his heart, lungs, or pancreas. (Musical interlude: ‘Be Careful, It’s My Heart’)

The Theranos Effect is real in terms of investment in small companies out there on the ‘bleeding edge’. The cooling is mostly salutory, and we’ve been seeing it since late last year (see here). But…will we remember after it wears off, after the fines are collected, the prison time is served?

Soapbox Round 2: ‘disruptive innovation’ debate disrupts ‘the chattering classes’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/img_5.jpg” thumb_width=”180″ /]It’s a Blackboard Jungle out there. Clayton Christensen rebuts Jill Lepore on most–but not all–of her views on his theory of disruptive innovation [TTA 24 June] aired in a New Yorker cover story. The forum is a follow up interview (20 June) with BusinessWeek. (Hat tip to Tom Boyle commenting on the original Soapbox. Also see a just-released HBR video interview, link below.)

Your Editor agrees with his point that his theories have been developed and updated far beyond his first (1997) book, ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’, the only one she refers to.  (Similarly, I am most familiar with ‘The Innovator’s Prescription’ of 2008, but we’ve commented on his more recent relevant work, readily searchable here.) This is, unfortunately, her argument’s major flaw. It is akin to ceasing your review of WWII history with A.J.P. Taylor and Cornelius Ryan; as fine foundationally as they are, the scholarship and strategic debates will extend far beyond our lifetimes.

Mr Christensen in his rebuttal is appealingly modest in bringing up where he got it wrong (the iPhone), where his model has gone off (in 2002, a mathematician from Tuck demonstrating the causal mechanism as incorrect to that point) and that he still sees problems with the theory. Moreover, her strongest point is one he agrees with: (more…)