Entrepreneur: “Where Healthcare Meets Wireless”

A fascinating Entrepreneur Magazine article by Ericka Chickowski features an interview with “Mobile Matchmaker” Don Casey, CEO of the West Wireless Health Institute.

Whilst not wanting to detract from the thoroughly commendable initiative that the Institute is undertaking, in the article I’m surprised to hear Don suggesting that the healthcare and wireless industry’s are speaking different languages and that there is an industry here that hasn’t yet been born. Whilst it might be a cool thing to say what we’re doing is innovative and completely new, the facts are successful examples of mHealth are already all around us – we just need to look.

Maybe I meet with too many clinicians who just get the opportunity for mHealth or maybe I’m just lucky enough to be avoiding the small minority who aren’t utilising mobiles to be more effective, but I can’t help think that the pioneers in the use of telephones and mobile data technologies have always been medical professionals whether they be on battlefields, teaching hospitals or in rural communities.

Even if we overlook the massive popularity of pagers (the precursors to our mobile networks) that still remain in use in the Healthcare industry the world over, it’s a fact that mobiles have always been invaluable tools that are massively appreciated and utilised by the vast majority of professional healthcare workers. With Medical Schools introducing mobile devices to the educational experience I don’t think this is a trend that is going to go away either.

You can find some interesting examples by watching this video of me presenting at Mobile Monday Amsterdam where I explain how some of my first memories were of the important relationship Doctors had with coin operated payphones (what are they???) back in the 1970’s, continue a bit further and you’ll hear me explaining how my first digital mobile phone (back in 1995) was bought for use as an out of hours medical emergency device. The potential for mHealth may not be fully exploited but it is most definitely not something new.

Maybe this $100 million funded not for profit business incubator needs to take a step back from the technology and take heed of a few of the fundamentals of medicine eg. “If you listen to the patient they will usually give you the diagnosis” (Sir William Osler), because I get the feeling that they’re going to find that the most powerful sensor that we’ll ever be able to put on a phone is already here and within the reach of billions of patients via the mobile web:

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2 Responses to Entrepreneur: “Where Healthcare Meets Wireless”

  1. As much as I appreciate what is being done at the West Wireless Institute, they are what I call a “Qualcomm” baby and therefore are focused on sensors and the chips that power them. This is a focus on a narrow, but important, part of the overall mHealth initiative.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your response.

    In the absence of any other big companies that are capable of leading the mHealth market I’m grateful that we have Qualcomm (sponsors of next months Mobile Healthcare Industry Summit) although it’s hard to see it as their baby having such other powerful companies/individuals involved. I find Qualcomm a great inspiration and I personally recall founder Irwin Jacob’s talking in London almost 7 years ago about the convergence to the smartphone in which he very clearly outlined how 3G Video consulting could offer new opportunities to empower patients.

    Maybe it’s my private sector affiliations showing but I’d prefer this to the rather idealistic charitable efforts that rarely deliver into actual products with tangible patient benefits eg. this Grand Global Challenge:


    Maybe you know something I don’t because I personally don’t see why Qualcomm would be focused so narrowly on the sensor market as they make lots of money from the chip demand that originates from ever smarter and more powerful mobile phone devices. By use of the mobile as a hub I think you’re going to find a lot of these sensors will become redundant anyway eg. I’ve seen a demo of a polarized light analysis tool that could feature within a camera phone to noninvasively monitor blood sugar by measuring rotation of light shone into and reflected out of the eye. Such basic tech could obviously make redundant the need for the various implanted devices, bracelets and derma analysis sensors that I hear being mooted but Qualcomm would still win as patients/providers would have higher quality demands on such a mobile device.

    Whilst I’d have no doubt they’re developing for the next big thing this comment from Lifescience Director Clint McClellan at CTIA shows that Qualcomm is acutely aware of the low hanging mHealth fruit:


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