Wireless Health Care Firms Searching For Market Inroads

June 4, 2012 | Reply More

Conference tackles adoption hurdles for emerging wireless health technology

Written by Mike Freeman, as retrieved 06/04/12.

Sensors, apps, big data analytics software and other technology underpinning the wireless health care industry is fast becoming ready for prime time. But getting this technology widely used by doctors and patients – as well as paid for by insurers – remains an obstacle for the industry.

That was one of the key messages at the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance Convergence Summit being held this week in downtown San Diego. About 275 technology and healthcare officials attended the two-day event. They include XPrize Chief Executive Peter Diamandis and Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs, who are expected to talk today about the role of contests in encouraging innovation. Qualcomm is sponsoring a $10 million Tricorder XPrize competition.

The contest, which officially launched in January, gives entrepreneurs financial incentive to develop an all-in-one, handheld medical scanner akin to the fictional Tricorder from the Star Trek television series.

The Tricorder XPrize aims in part to maintain excitement around wireless health care devices during the time it takes for the medical and insurance industries to become more comfortable using the technology broadly.

“Health is becoming cool, something that motivates people,” said Robert McCray, chief executive of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance. “Markets are opening up because of it. But a lot of discussion you’ll hear at the conference is going to be: Why aren’t institutions, and maybe we as individuals, adopting wireless health solutions faster? My opinion is the technology is not the limiting factor.”

Barriers facing wireless health entrepreneurs are many and complicated. They range from regulatory hurdles to a fragmented hospital/medical provider system that uses many different technology systems.

But current efforts to bring more information sharing to the health care industry – such as government emphasis on electronic health records – could bode well for the wireless health technology firms.

“The big opportunity in health in terms of savings and in terms of getting better outcomes is really a simple thing: It’s using the things we are already using in some kind of an integrated fashion,” said David Sayen, a regional administrator for the centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

There’s also shift underway in health care from a system centered around providers – the doctors and hospitals – to one where individuals take a more active role in their own health, said Sayen.

That could open markets for body sensors, in-home wireless health monitors, smart phone health apps and other technology.

“Everybody in the world has a cell phone,” said Leslie Saxon, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California. “Carriers seem to finally be ready to jump into health care. And we have digital imaging capabilities across all these platforms – mobile and tablets. So it hard to image we couldn’t make this work.”

Health apps that include some aspects of video games and social media are being explored as a way wireless health firms can get consumers to adopt their technology. One example is a wireless diabetes testing system for youths that includes a game interface to encourage users to test their blood and share the results.

“We need to take a medical technology and turn it into a consumer product,” said David Albert, a founder of AliveCor, which makes a device the allows smart phones to become clinical-quality electrocardiograms. “So things like gaming. Saying I’m going to make you better doesn’t always motivate people. But saying I’m going to entertain you…..”

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