Qualcomm Life, Benchmark team up to develop cheap, disposable health monitoring patches

By Jonah Comstock
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Qualcomm Life is working with electronics company Benchmark to create low-cost, disposable biometric patches that will help hospitals to monitor patients inside and outside the hospital.

“Basically, we’ve had demands from a lot of different customers for a lower-cost connected disposable patch sensor technology to use for a number of different cases and a number of different reasons,” Qualcomm Life President Rick Valencia told MobiHealthNews. “What we hear most often is perioperative care and therapeutic interventions, but there’s a long list of items hospital organizations would like to use both in the hospital and outside of the acute care environment once they discharge patients and see how they’re recovering.”

The patch will measure temperature and 3D motion at first, but Valencia said that over the time, the plan is to add additional biometrics, as long as it can be done while keeping the costs down.

“There’s a lot of interesting sensor technology out there, but the really important stuff like blood pressure is really, really complicated,” he said. “No one has that solved yet with a simple one-application patch, and I don’t expect that to be solved any time soon, but eventually it might be. So I could see over time more and more sensor technology being put on to these devices.”

While there are a number of biometric patches currently available to hospitals — many of which measure more than just motion and thermometry — Qualcomm and Benchmark are aiming for the bottom of the market, to create a patch that is cheap and disposable.

“Generally speaking right now in the market, they’re relatively expensive. In some cases they need to be cleaned up and reused because they’re that expensive,” Valencia said. “And it ends up that most are being used in pilots, are being used in research, in relatively low volume. Whereas ultimately we think the industry is going to be using these full time and all the time for patients. So you’ll walk into the hospital you get a patch put on you, or after some sort of procedure they put a patch on you, send you home, capture information for a day to seven days, then you rip the thing off you and throw it away. In order to do that you need to design something very small, very unobtrusive, very inexpensive.”

While Benchmark will build the device and be the manufacturer of record for the FDA, Qualcomm is helping develop the technology. Qualcomm will also handle the connectivity through it’s 2net platform, which will allow the patch to send data to EHRs, mobile devices, care dashboards, or wherever else a particular provider customer needs the data to go.

Qualcomm Life has been working on medical device connectivity for six years, and Valencia sees this effort as one more step toward the chip giant’s vision for patient-generated health data.

“Eventually as we move to value-based care and outcomes-based payments, you’re going to need to have that data on a more continuous basis,” Valencia said. “Ultimately what Qualcomm Life is building, what we call the Internet of Medical Things, is this connectivity capability across the whole care continuum that enables you not to have to plug your patient in and out of different systems. They’re constantly connected and the end solution might be something that’s different for different conditions, but it’s still all one seamless connectivity platform to make life simple.”

Benchmark is targeting a 2018 launch date for the biometric patches.