Wireless health and mobile health: A burgeoning revolution

Editor's note: This article is written in advance of the San Diego Venture Group's Oct. 27 panel discussion at the Hyatt Regency in La Jolla.

Just as the automobile transformed modern society by providing personalized mobility for people and resources, so too is wireless technology effecting a fundamental change in the continuum of consumer health and clinical health care. While radio frequency communications technology is ubiquitous and something we take for granted in our daily lives (just like the car), its application to the gathering and transmission of health-related information is a relatively recent phenomenon -- but one that is projected to grow rapidly in market size over the next few years.

Wireless health and mobile health (mHealth) solutions are creating a new personalized health paradigm, comprised of self-empowered consumers who are more connected to and in better control of their own health (and their family's) and remotely-linked into our healthcare systems. On the provider side, doctors and nurses are receiving targeted information to make better decisions while extending their reach beyond the physical bounds of the hospital. While hard to believe in this world of ever-escalating healthcare costs, wireless health achieves the paradoxical goals of improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes while lowering costs.

The U.S. market for wireless home-health technology is projected to soar from just $304 million last year to $4.4 billion by 2013. And based on the amount consumers are willing to pay for some of these services, the potential market is estimated to be between $7.7 billion and $43 billion annually, according to research conducted by PwC. Helping to meet this demand, venture capital investment in wireless health and mHealth companies totaled $85 million in the second quarter of 2010, which was double the investment of the preceding quarter, according to MobiHealthNews.

San Diego, due to the collaboration of visionary leaders in our renowned life sciences and telecommunications technology clusters, is playing a pivotal role in this evolving ecosystem of for-profit and nonprofit players. CardioNet, founded here in 1999, produces a mobile cardiac monitoring solution which was the first FDA-cleared wireless health device.

Fast forward 10 years to 2009, and we saw the founding of the West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI), a first-of-its kind, $90 million research institution whose mission is to lower health care costs by accelerating the availability of wireless health solutions. The institute was founded by billionaire entrepreneurs Gary and Mary West, with Qualcomm signing on as a technology and educational partner.

Another wireless health company, Corventis, which was founded by local technology incubator PhiloMetron, produces a product based on research funded by DARPA. Corventis obtained FDA clearance for its wireless cardiac arrhythmia monitoring system this past January and was recognized by The World Economic Forum as a "Technology Pioneer" for the potential impact of their technology on the future of business and society. PhiloMetron is currently working on yet another "Smart Band-Aid" spinout, which will be used for applications in the weight management and fitness markets.

Sonnier is managing director of Wireless Health Strategies, an executive management consultancy, and co-chair of the Healthcare Communications SIG at CommNexus San Diego.

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