Sending blood in the post (and why you’ll be doing it soon)

A talk at Canvas 2017 on how Thriva are giving people greater control over their health.

The first session of the day at Canvas Conference this year was all about ‘building the new’. While it’s never been easier to build, launch and validate a landing page in an afternoon, what happens when your next big idea involves asking your customers to send you their blood in the post? We wanted to uncover some of the stories and challenges behind products that are breaking new ground, particularly in the healthcare space.

So, Hamish (the CEO and Co-founder of health tech startup Thriva) kicked us off with the sobering statistic that 1 in 4 of us is going to die needlessly. That was the bad news but the good news is that there are loads of innovators tackling all corners of healthcare right now. Thriva is a part of this space and is aiming to build the world’s first preventative healthcare service using home blood testing kits. 

The Thriva kits focus on testing your liver function, cholesterol, and so on; the early indicators that something’s not quite right, and crucially things that can be affected by lifestyle changes. You send a small vial of blood off to a partner lab, and receive a report within 48 hours (with supplementary GP notes in plain English).

Giving back control

Thousands of people have used these to find out more about what’s happening inside their bodies and mitigate against risks that they might not previously have been aware of. Control is the key thing behind the Thriva product, as is the mantra that you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

Rather than taking anything away from the NHS, their aim is give knowledge that allows people to be more proactive about their own health, and stay away from the ‘sickcare’ provided by the NHS (i.e, the care we receive only when something is actually wrong).

The world would be a better place if everyone was blissfully informed about their health.

There is an increasing curiosity amongst the public around personal health. For a long time the quantified self community were the main ones who were interested in hacking their way to better health, however now it’s much more normal to be able to demand control and get it’ when it comes to your health. Products like Push Doctor (on demand video appointments with doctors) and 23andMe (personal genetics testing) only add to the buzz.

Your own dashboard

Early on, Thriva had a realisation that their product serves the same purpose as the dashboard in your car, but for your body. Dashboards have reduced a huge amount of the anxiety, stress and cost of running a car, as they give early and clear indicators when something’s not right. Thriva use the dashboard analogy as a guiding vision for their product, which they want to be like a comprehensive dashboard for health.

Thriva believe that the next evolution of the personal health revolution will be understanding what’s happening ‘inside your body’, not just out of it, and Hamish took us through some of the realisations and errors they’ve made along the way.

Choosing a business model

Hamish shared that a tricky part of their product on-boarding experience is that you have to bleed into a tube before you get any sort of ‘a-ha!’ moment (in this case, the moment being your results report). This is a huge barrier to entry for new and perhaps skeptical users, and fairly unescapable given most of us have an inbuilt aversion to seeing our own blood!

A knock-on effect of this is that it led to a huge debate around the most appropriate business model to adopt on launch. While one founder thought that a subscription-based model was the way to go, Hamish was certain that a product that was both new and with a difficult on-boarding barrier should have a simplistic pay-per-use model.

After launching with the pay-per-use model, they managed to get to 300 customers before realising they’d committed the cardinal sin of not actually speaking to any customers properly.

Using the Jobs to be Done framework, they spoke to customers and quickly learned that they were wrong people wanted a regular view of their health and that the value lied in having a longitudinal data set, seeing your trends, and so on so they quickly adapted and switched to subscriptions.

People are complicated

Prior to their JTBD exercise, they had thought their users would be on opposite ends of the scale; complete clean-living health nuts or fairly unhealthy people who are keen on a pint, but don’t want to be caught out by an underlying health issue. Turns out – these were the same person. Liking a burger doesn’t mean you don’t also eat salad and go to the gym – most people are somewhere in the middle, and can’t be defined so easily.

People are complicated, and motivations for using something like Thriva were much more nuanced than they’d assumed. There wasn’t a simple ‘jobs map’ split that they could rely on to categorise users.

These realisations led to a shift, which now drives all their product thinking; the key thing that drives a variance in behaviour is whether you want to look good (‘live for now’) or dance at your son’s wedding (‘live longer’).

However, they actually discovered a third group of people – those who just wanted to live normally, i.e people who were currently patients. Thriva originally made the mistake of thinking that those already in sickcare didn’t expect the same level of product privileges as we’ve all become used to in our daily lives thanks to experiences like Uber, Slack etc. The fact that you’re a patient for one thing doesn’t define the rest of your life.

You can watch Hamish’s talk in full below. If you liked this, you can sign up to the Canvas Conference mailing list here to be updated on future events.