Competitors in the mobile health market have been going gateway crazy over the last month. Back at the mHealth Summit in early December Qualcomm announced its new hub and platform for wirelessly enabling medical devices so that data can be collected from patients on behalf of healthcare providers, essentially positioning the Qualcomm product as a gateway for mobile health data. Shortly afterwards US vendor Lantronix announced the launch of the EDS-MD, what it terms a medical device aggregator (essentially the same role as a gateway or indeed a hub).
Collecting all this data also involves storing it somewhere, meaning the cloud. Verizon Wireless announced at the summit that its new digital care management solution will be built on a cloud-based platform and connected devices from vendor partners such as Entra Health. The new year did not slowdown the spate of announcements. App developer iTriage (recently acquired by healthcare giant Aetna) announced it has integrated Microsoft’s Healthvault into its iPhone app (Android app to follow), so that users can access the health records from their smartphones. The developer’s co-founder Dr Peter Hudson explained the big picture was about “being the mobile aggregator for multiple PHRs in the future”. Then this week Sprint and its vendor partner Ideal Life announced a new product they termed “a cellular pod” (aka aggregator, hub or gateway) that sits between a patient and healthcare provider.
Such services collect user data then make it accessible (via the cloud) to both patients and their physicians. That is one of their attractions. As previously reported by Mobile Health Live. the other one is the ability for the company that runs the gateway to harvest the data flowing through it. Suitably anonymised such data has huge value for companies such as health providers or pharmaceutical manfacturers, hence the rush to enter the market.
In a note written last month Sam Lucero, ABI Research’s practice director for M2M connectivity, said both vendors and mobile operators “understand that a greater portion of the total value of a healthcare technology service offering is comprised of the management of the resulting data than in the gateway devices or connectivity services”. That’s a chastening thought for the rivals. No one wants to miss out of course. Perhaps a series of healthcare gateways will emerge as the major players. Or there will be a role for a smaller number of gateways that pull together data from a range of smaller, specialist hubs or aggregators. Lucero casts the competition in terms of a battle between vendors and operators and knows which side will win. He thinks it likely that mobile operators will “leverage their greater market resources, including more general enterprise cloud service offerings to gain a distinct advantage” in mobile health. Either way the value of the market means it will be a tough fight.
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