Solving Medical Device Interoperability – Is Qualcomm Building that Platform?

Posted on September 15, 2015 I Written By

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If you’ve spent some time in the mHealth and mobile health space (which are basically the same thing), then you’ve likely run into Qualcomm. They’ve made a big investment in that space with their Qualcomm Life initiative together with their 2Net platform that helps home health devices connect and share data. In many ways it made a lot of sense for a wireless provider (mostly chips from my understanding) to get involved in this space since it was a way for them to sell more chips. It seems like every new medical device needs some wireless technology embedded in it. On the other hand it sometimes felt awkward since Qualcomm really doesn’t directly sell products to healthcare organizations or consumers.

Many people probably missed the announcement that Qualcomm Life acquired Capsule Tech. A lot of people in healthcare don’t know about Capsule Tech. Even fewer probably know about Qualcomm Life. However, Capsule Tech has done a great job building a business around medical device management. Capsule Tech is known as the black box under the hospital bed that captures all the medical device data in a hospital room and sends that data where it needs to go. They’ve recently expanded beyond the black boxes into things like data analytics, but at their core they’re all about collecting and sharing medical device data.

When you think about it from that perspective, that’s kind of what Qualcomm Life has been doing with home health devices and their 2Net platform. They’re collecting and sharing home health data where it needs to go.

As you look at a combined company, you can easily see a platform for medical device data starting to form. It will take some time for them to make it a reality, but you can see how Capsule together with Qualcomm Life could become the hub of medical device data. Now they have expertise in hospital grade medical devices and more patient focused home health devices as well. I can’t think of any other organization that’s merging the two like they could do. Some specific healthcare organizations are doing it on their own, but not a vendor.

Kevin Phillips, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Capsule Tech, told me that many of their customers were asking them for medical device solutions that reached into the home. It makes sense that a hospital using Capsule Tech for their enterprise medical devices would turn to them for their home health efforts as well. Now that Capsule Tech is part of Qualcomm Life, they’ll have a suite of solutions they can make available to their hospital customers.

From the 2Net partner perspective, Capsule Tech brings a large number of healthcare organizations to the table that could now consider buying their wireless health solutions. The key is going to be how well Qualcomm can integrate their 2Net platform with Capsule Tech. Capsule Tech has integrated with pretty much all of the major EHR vendors out there. Can Qualcomm leverage these EHR integrations to the benefit of their 2Net partners?

I asked this very question of Dr. James R. Mault, VP and Chief Medical Officer of Qualcomm Life. He danced around the subject citing the EHR blocking that was highlighted by ONC earlier this year and how many EHR vendors and health systems have made it really hard to create these type of integrations. However, Dr. Mault also described how there’s been some major changes recently in this regard thanks to the push towards value based care and reduced hospital readmissions. Organizations are realizing they have to start opening up. I’d describe his answer as hopeful, but realistic when it comes to the challenges they face with EHR integrations. If Qualcomm Life could offer their partners a path to the EHR through Capsule Tech, that would be a real coup.

At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. This conceptual medical device data sharing platform across the healthcare enterprise and home health sounds great. I’ll be interested in how Qualcomm Life and Capsule Tech do at executing it. Are hospitals really ready to purchase the home health products? Will these solutions help them in their value based reimbursement, ACO, and/or reduced hospital readmission efforts? It’s going to be interesting to watch and see which Qualcomm Life partners are of interest to the hospital market. I told them I’d follow up at HIMSS 2016 to see how they’re doing.