New for the hypochondriac in your life: the Biophysical250, a high-octane blood test that scans for more than 200 potentially devastating problems, including heart disease and cancer. The thinking: Annual physicals can't catch everything, and doctors can miss subtle signs of diseases early in their progression. Biophysical Corp.'s test, by contrast, looks for the first chemical hints of illness by analyzing biomarkers—proteins and other bits in the blood associated with specific diseases. Customers contact Biophysical for an appointment, and a technician visits to draw blood. Three weeks later, clients get a report outlining risk factors, a consult with a Biophysical doctor, and a breakdown for their own physicians. The downside is the tab: $3,400. The company says its comprehensive workup is priced at 10% of what a comparable battery of tests would cost à la carte—but it's not likely to be covered by insurance. Is this early-warning test a healthy concept? Here's what our experts think:
Dr. Mehmet Oz, celebrity cardiologist and best-selling coauthor of You: The Smart Patient
"Doctors want people to be proactive. If people can trade online, they can follow their blood tests. A system like this makes it consumer-friendly—a wonderful backup to the more traditional pathways, as long as the regular doctor is brought into it and there's an educational process."
Eugene Douglas, former U.S. ambassador and a Biophysical client
"A person in international business is exposed to a wider variety of new illnesses and the physical effects of environmental changes around the world. It's sensible to reach out to technology for early warning. I found a condition that had to be corrected, or I would have found myself in the Middle East or Africa needing an operation."
Regina Herzlinger, Harvard Business School professor
"People want convenience because they're busy. They want control because they think they're smart, and we're richer and richer. I think it's a great idea, but labs typically sell through doctors and hospitals. I wonder how they're going to reach customers. This is about retailing—it's a different skill set than being a good doc."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.