News 12/9/11

Most of this news came out to coincide with the mHealth Summit earlier this week.

Qualcomm made big news at the start of the Summit to match the size of the Qualcomm booth in the exhibit hall. The company announced that its wireless health business unit will be spun into a subsidiary called Qualcomm Life. With the launch of the subsidiary, Qualcomm also showcased the new 2net Platform and Hub that acts as a home gateway to collect and aggregate data from multiple sources. The Hub plugs into a wall and collects data from medical devices, transmits it over cellular to the 2net Platform, and then pushes it to the whatever interface the medical device manufacturer assigns. The Continua-certified 2net hub supports connectivity via Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WiFi, and ANT+. Medical device makers can easily add remote connectivity and monitoring capabilities. Many companies are already integrated with 2net, including Hello Health, A&D Medical, AT&T, and Numera, to name a few.

An interesting announcement tied to Qualcomm Life and 2net was from AirStrip, which will use the 2net Platform to enable remote patient monitoring for clinicians using AirStrip’s mobile apps. The initial target will be congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. It
sounds like discharge (readmission prevention) solution.

I guess I’ll stay on Qualcomm Life-related news from the summit. A new mobile app called Maccaaw, billed as a complete personal health monitor and mobile health hub, was released by US Preventative Medicine. It links to the more complete online health assessment and evidence-based Prevention Plan from US Preventative Medicine, using the app to automatically monitor activity and biometrics through connectivity to devices on the 2net Platform. If you’re not a Prevention Plan member, the app asks basic profile questions and then provides you with weekly goals across three domains – activity, nutrition, and education. It also does GPS tracking of activity. It’s a cool concept with a good design. I see the potential of this, especially if it is part of a corporate wellness program. I’d like to see more virtual one-on-one coaching and social features, but I imagine that’s coming.

Not to be left out of the news the week of the mHealth Summit, Verizon releases a press release about its network advancing virtual and mobile healthcare. The statement talks about improving chronic care through more connected and engaged patients and providers. I met with the Verizon leadership while a the summit and they feel the advantage they have over other carriers is in the area of identification and security. They spoke about wanting to become more of a technology company, utilizing the existing Verizon network and security features to enable both home grown and partner solutions.

While at the summit this week, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced a new competition for app developers, the Healthy Apps Challenge. Applications are due at the end of this month. It seeks apps that help people stay healthy and active with tailored health advice. Categories of submissions include Fitness, Nutrition, and Integrative Health. Winners get good press.

HealthTap, a company featured at the mHealth Summit Startup Pavilion, announced this week that it had closed a round of financing of $11.5 million. The new online community allows consumers to ask health questions and have them answered by verified physicians, all free of charge. The service already has 6,000 providers across 100 specialties. I don’t get this investment, especially after reading the e-mail from the marketing company that sent me the notice. "HealthTap believes it can carve out at least a third of the $485 billion doctor visit industry (McKinsey Global Institute Report, December, 2008)". Really? I’ve used HealthTap and response time for questions is very fast, but I can’t see sustaining this growth beyond the early adopters who are currently using the service.

Aging at home startup Independa introduces Artemis, a platform for automatic collection of bio sensor data. Independa plans to offer packages of sensors tailored to health needs. The idea is to have this work out of the box, taking away any technical confusion or configuration requirements. It sounds a bit like Vitality in that way. The home hub was developed in partnership with Boston Life Labs.

mHealth Alliance and Rockefeller Foundation announce the top 11 innovators in mobile health for 2011. The list contains lots of very cool services and technologies in the international mHealth arena. My favorite is Bright Simmons of mPedigree because it’s such a simple solution for users, it utilizes readily available SMS, and it makes money because pharma is the main customer.

The UN and mHealth Alliance announce winners of grants to improve maternal and child health. The grants are from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad). All I can think of when I read or hear Norad (caps or not) is War Games. The winners of the grants included Clinton Health Access Initiative, Dimalgi, D-Tree, Grameen, International Relief and Development – Pakistan, Novartis Foundation, Rwanda Ministry of Health, and Cell-Life.

Unrelated to the mHealth Summit this week, Wired had a story on Apple’s subtle yet successful approach to bringing the iPad into healthcare. It’s an interesting read about Apple, Jobs, and even Pixar’s attempts at becoming a healthcare vendor.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups.

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