Review of a bloody new startup, Thriva
We’re told vitamin d is important for us, that we should keep our cholesterol low, and we should measure our body fat. But is it realistic that we can discover what our levels of each of these are without access to a laboratory or extremely generous private medical healthcare? There is no real way to find out what is going on inside your body.
Or so we thought…
This start-up has been making quite the splash recently, since they’re offering at-home blood tests, with all the kit you need simply posted through the door as if it were a Graze box. In fact, much like Graze, Thriva can be purchased on subscription, so you can always keep on top of your body.
Their lab does all the analysis, and unlike services such as 23andMe, their health professionals provide context around the results, helping you understand what they mean, what actions you should take, and what risks may be posed.
It sounds great. So when we met Thriva at WIRED Health, we had to ask to try it out.
You’ve got mail
My Thriva kit arrived through the post within days of ordering. The box was very compact, and upon opening, it was clear why; only 6ml of blood is needed, and to get this all you need is a lancet, which anyone with diabetes will be familiar with.
Once you have taken your sample, you simply fill in the form, pop it in the bag and send it off. Your results then follow about a week later.
But… we’re glossing over the process here a little. Remember, you need to give a blood sacrifice(!) to get your results.
A little prick
I, for one, am not very inclined to self-harm. My body’s survival mode is clearly well and truly turned on, because bringing myself to using the lancet – a tiny and what would turn out to be painless pin prick – was impossible. In the end, after about 5 minutes of performing the same routine as I do when tasked with catching a spider, I had to ask my partner to do it.
As I’ve already mentioned, it turns out the lancet doesn’t hurt at all. It is less painful than an injection, even. What came next though, was a lot of blood; so I had to move fast to make sure I didn’t get any on my wooden desk. Bear this in mind for when you take the test.
It is worth noting that not all people bleed as easily as I do. If, in the past, you have found it difficult for blood to be drawn at blood tests, you made find Thriva frustrating, as it can be difficult for some people to even draw this little amount of blood. There’s a technique described in the pamphlet, which may help.
After taking the sample, I put the lid on, filled a form and stuck it onto the container. I placed this into another container, popped it, and another form, into the yellow bag which states ‘biological substance’ and sat back with a smug look on my face, as I felt like a real scientist.
Trust me, I’m a doctor
One week later and the results came back. As a snapshot, mine came back saying my LDL cholesterol was 2.25 mmol/L, cholesterol 5.18 mmol/L, triglycerides 3.63 mmol/L, HDL cholesterol 1.28 mmol/L and cholesterol ration 24.71%. Now, you’ll probably be wondering what on earth any of this means – and that’s precisely the danger with these sorts of kits and is why 23andMe got into so much trouble.
Thriva knows that not everyone understands what their results mean, or what is good and bad. So Thriva adds descriptions to each item tested and provides a chart with easy to understand colour markings, to help you know if you’re doing well or poorly.
I have high cholesterol it turns out, and slightly raised triglycerides. So while I now know what these two things are and that my results are high, how can I know what this is probably because of, and what I can do to get down to normal levels?
Again, Thriva takes this into consideration. People will want to know what their negative results mean. And so they provide a doctor’s opinion. The doc analyses your results and gives context. This isn’t AI, it isn’t a robot giving pre-made answers; it is a real doctor offering their expertise and advice in a way you can understand.
Take a look at this full snapshot of the results I mentioned, to see what the doc had to saRememberber, the baseline test I took gives even more results than this, but I don’t want to give too much information about my insides away.
Fatty’s final thoughts
So we all now know that on the inside, I’m a little fat. Great. And while I’d love to rate Thriva nice and low for bringing this to all of our attention, I can’t. What I must do, is rate them rather highly.
You see, Thriva provides the sort of information that you just don’t get regularly enough from the NHS. In the future, I believe companies like Thriva will be an essential part of our healthcare system, and I wouldn’t be surprised if insurance companies got in on the act and started asking customers to take the tests regularly – after all, companies such as Vitality give you rewards if you use their app and prove you’re active.
Thriva doesn’t just measure your blood levels and give you the raw data either. They analyse, offer context and get a doctor’s opinion. With subscriptions available so you can take a test every three months, and for a variety of different measurements (I took a baseline test, but there are much more), it seems to me that Thriva is possibly the best way to stay in top health. Yes, a FitBit will encourage you to exercise, but Thriva will give you real motivation to eat better and workout more – if you’re at risk of cardiovascular disease, as I am, then you’ll do something about it.
While Thriva is not a gadget or an app, it is built on technological advances that allow for blood samples to be taken at home, and processed quickly in a private lab. Really, the most revolutionary part is the fact it is now so easy to do.
When measuring your health becomes this easy, and this cheap (a test is around £49), then it makes you wonder if it’s worth going into a hospital at all. So take full control of your health, and use Thriva.