Yoritex demos BlackBerry medical device hub

By Neil Versel

Yoritex YoriMed BlackBerry medical device hubApple's iPhone has been widely praised for its elegant design. Similarly, the much-heralded iPhone ECG from Dr. David Albert's AliveCor is simplistic in its form, easily bolting on to the back of the iconic smartphone.

A competing offering from Canadian mobile medical products developer Yoritex seems more diverse in its potential uses. But it appears to be clunkier when it comes to design, raising the question of whether consumers will go for form or function.

Toronto-based Yoritex last week released a video demonstration of YoriMed, a medical network hub that connects small, home-based medical devices to smartphones via the micro USB port on most Android and BlackBerry models. YoriMed can accept a range of devices, including plug-in ECG/EKG sensors, blood-pressure monitors, thermometers and blood analyzers. Software loaded on the smartphone collects and displays readings in real time, and the data can be forwarded to medical professionals for analysis.

The hub is powered by a rechargeable battery that is separate from the phone's battery. It has a 36-pin medical connector on one side -- following the ISO/IEEE 11073 communications protocol for personal health devices -- and a micro USB port on the other.

"Our solution brings benefits both to patients and consumer medical device manufacturers by reducing costs for complete systems," CTO Sergey Toporkov says in the video. He shows the YoriMed hub linking a two-lead ECG module from Freescale Semiconductor to a BlackBerry Bold 9780, which has a screen resolution of 480 by 360 pixels. That's low compared to Apple's iPhone and some higher-end Android devices.

In the demo, the ECG module has an exposed circuit board, and the chain of device-hub-phone looks somewhat unwieldy, particularly when compared to the iPhone ECG. Also of concern, the Yoritex app stores data on the smartphone. Security experts have routinely warned healthcare organizations against keeping personally identifiable health information on mobile devices in case of loss or theft.

Toporkov says Yoritex expects the YoriMed hub to be ready for sale by mid-2012 for $99, not including the cost of third-party sensors. Company spokeswoman Nataly Dain told MobiHealthNews in an email that the product needs FCC registration in the U.S. and a CE non-medical mark for sale in Europe. Yoritex plans to have those by April. Dain says Yoritex will market the hub in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Russia.

AliveCor has said the iPhone ECG would cost about $99 as well, including the single-lead ECG. Albert's company also has promised an Android version in the near future.

While the iPhone ECG needs FDA 510(k) clearance before AliveCor can offer it in the U.S., YoriMed is a communications hub, not a medical device, so it does not require such regulatory approval. Instead, attached medical devices from third parties must be approved for sale.

Dain says the closely held company is seeking additional funding so it can develop tablet software as well. A tablet version will allow for conference calls and video consultations between patients and physicians, the Yoritex spokeswoman explains.