“We are on our way to 50 billion connected devices, said Don Jones, VP of Global Strategy & Market Development at Qualcomm Life during the Burrill Digital Health event in Burlingame, Ca. And the power of these devices should be tapped for health management to address the healthcare crisis. “Every government has a big, big problem to address concerning healthcare,” he said, citing the recent S&P warning to G20 countries that they will receive a downgrade if healthcare costs are not decreased by 2015. "This is one of the most serious things that has come out recently," he said.
One of the biggest issues where mobile devices can help is in monitoring chronic conditions, which currently affect 160 million Americans. Many people have two, three, or four chronic conditions, he added.
"The big, big trend now is the move of healthcare delivery out of expensive venues." And patients are giving up on the notion that physicians are absolute authorities. Most people now want to see doctors as advisors.
As it turns out, mobile technology is well suited to help make that happen. For one thing, they are plentiful: Mobile devices will overtake the worldwide population by the end of 2012.
That is the reason that Qualcomm, a Fortune 500 company, has entered this space. “Our CEO, Paul E. Jacobs, firmly believes that we can make a difference in healthcare. He spent 25% of his keynote at CES talking about healthcare,” Jones explained. "He was on stage discussing it with Eric Topol, MD."
The company is also partnering with a number of other organizations, including universities and trade organizations, to build an ecosystem to support the wireless health adoption. The company has also launched its 2net platform, which is essentially a "plumbing platform" the company created "to get data from devices to the people that care," he said, adding that it can be used with FDA Class I, II, and III devices.
There are a number of cardiac monitors that look more like consumer devices than medical devices. Jones cited the iRhythm, the EPI Life, Airstrip Technologies, and Corventis as examples of this.
He pointed to the AliveCor iPhone ECG technology as one of the examples of how mobile technology can be used for healthcare applications. “The AliveCor technology has actually changed my family’s life. My son actually has a cardiac condition and when he has a problem, he actually can monitor that,” says Jones.
"We are also pushing the envelope with the X-Prize," Jones said. “We want to arm the consumer to self-diagnose. This is about disarming doctors,” he said. “We want patients to know: what’s wrong and what do I need to do next? And we believe that is doable.”
“[With the X-Prize,] we want to arm the consumer to self-diagnose. This is about disarming doctors."
There are 120 teams registered competing for the prize. “There are teams based on cities, universities, and there are guys working in their garage.”
The goal behind the X-Prize is not to create just a winner who gets the prize, but to create a variety of new companies that can help improve healthcare.
Towards the end of his presentation, Jones recommended that the audience read "The Creative Destruction of Medicine" by Eric Topol, MD, stating that the new book on the subject of digital health (and genomics) would "hold up for five years."
Jones predicted that, in the near future, that the Amazon Kindle model would catch on in healthcare. "We are going to see healthcare services offered for free [or for very little]," he said. Healthcare companies can make money through ancillary services and products. Jones pointed out that this was essentially the strategy behind social media powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter, and that it was only a matter of time before it is a trend in the healthcare industry.
He closed saying that a number of companies will stop "waiting for reimbursement" and work to develop inexpensive devices that patients are willing to pay for out of pocket.
For devices to be popular, they have got to have a "got to have it" element, Jones said. "Most of the devices that see now don't have that."
Speaking of new business models, Jones prediced that in the near future medical device companies would step forward with plans to differentiate themselves from competitors by offering patients access to data harvested from the medical device itself. They will say: "We will give you your data and that is why you should buy our product. This has already happened outside of the United States."