Bioenergetics has become central to our understanding of pathological mechanisms, the development of new therapeutic strategies and as a biomarker for disease progression in neurodegeneration, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. A key concept is that the mitochondrion can act as the 'canary in the coal mine' by serving as an early warning of bioenergetic crisis in patient populations. We propose that new clinical tests to monitor changes in bioenergetics in patient populations are needed to take advantage of the early and sensitive ability of bioenergetics to determine severity and progression in complex and multifactorial diseases. With the recent development of high-throughput assays to measure cellular energetic function in the small number of cells that can be isolated from human blood these clinical tests are now feasible. We have shown that the sequential addition of well-characterized inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation allows a bioenergetic profile to be measured in cells isolated from normal or pathological samples. From these data we propose that a single value-the Bioenergetic Health Index (BHI)-can be calculated to represent the patient's composite mitochondrial profile for a selected cell type. In the present Hypothesis paper, we discuss how BHI could serve as a dynamic index of bioenergetic health and how it can be measured in platelets and leucocytes. We propose that, ultimately, BHI has the potential to be a new biomarker for assessing patient health with both prognostic and diagnostic value.