Editor’s note: Jon Harol is a serial entrepreneur that is passionate about disruptive business concepts. He is  the founder of Wake County based Lighthouse Lab Services and The Coworking Station in Apex and Holly Springs.

APEX – It can be difficult to tell when a mango is ripe. They come in many different colors and some go from green to red, some start out yellow while others turn orange when ripe. A veteran mango farmer will tell you the secret is to smell near the stem. If it smells sweet, it is ready to be picked.

The stem is the source that feeds the fruit and the smell at that location is the best indicator of ripeness.

If you want to sniff anywhere near the source that feeds the healthcare industry you should have a clothespin handy. I am not sure if it ever smelled sweet, but the healthcare industry is so far past being ripe for disruption that it is rotting on the vine.

There are many theories on the underpinnings that keep our bloated healthcare system upright and most of them probably have merit.  As an example, I am working with several groups that have developed very promising and disruptive diagnostic tests called “liquid biopsies.”

A liquid biopsy is a simple and non-invasive alternative to surgical biopsies which enables doctors to discover a range of information about a tumor through a simple blood sample. I have worked with various medical labs that have developed liquid biopsy tests for several different types of cancers.

Jon Harol

A few weeks ago, I sat across the table from the COO of a company that has developed a blood test that will inform a patient if they have breast cancer with better accuracy than a traditional biopsy and we discussed closing down his lab. Imagine the possibilities of being able to detect breast cancer without relying on feeling a lump and with better accuracy and less pain.

Anyone want to skip the colonoscopy?

There is a liquid biopsy for that as well.  What if you could detect lung cancer without cutting open the patient’s chest? That also exists. The reason that a liquid biopsy that is more accurate, more sensitive, less expensive and less painful has an uphill battle to becoming the new standard of care is that a lot of doctors make a living doing old fashion expensive tests. They are not excited about giving up this revenue stream and in an aggravating conflict of interest they are the only individuals that can order a liquid biopsy.

Similarly, you may not be surprised to find that it is well documented that doctors that have imaging equipment in their office are more likely to order an MRI or CT Scan.

As another example we recently completed setting up a food sensitivity testing lab here in the triangle that tests for 270 allergens, which is the largest panel in country. The founders are from Israel and they are finally bringing the test to the U.S. market. It is already offered in 42 other countries.

Much like 23andMe, this is a direct-to-consumer test which entails a kit being sent to a customer’s home. The customer then pricks their finger, dabs it on a card and mails it back.  The test results are delivered via a Smart Phone app, which includes recommendations on foods to avoid due to your body’s immune response and also includes personalized recipes comprised of foods that your body processes best.

Costs out of control, results lacking

The reason that the U.S. is the 43rd country in which this offering is being rolled out is that the regulations surrounding whether you can directly order a lab test are murky. Many states have regulations that prohibit you from ordering a lab test yourself. Physicians make money by seeing patients and anything that threatens this system will have an uphill battle, despite any cost savings or efficiencies it may bring to the system.

One of our clients, Bellevue Hospital in NYC, is the setting for the TV drama New Amsterdam, which seeks to highlight the problems with the U.S. healthcare system and bring about change and while the Hollywood cast of healthcare providers may be glamorized the truths about the reasons for our healthcare systems inefficiencies are even uglier than they appear on the screen.

An industry is ripe for disruption when costs run out of control and results are lacking. Despite spending double what other high-income countries do on healthcare the U.S. still has the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates.

Even more frustrating is the fact that it is not due to a lack of know-how or access to talent, since the U.S. dominates the list of the world’s best medical schools. The U.S. has always spent more on healthcare in terms of percentage of GDP, but the gap between what we spend in comparison to other high-income countries has been widening steadily since the early 1980s.

Someone please disrupt healthcare!

Previously in WRAL TechWire:

Rocket fuel: The power of public private partnerships

Coworking: Much, much more than cheap office space