The space between "clinical" and "fitness"

By Brian Dolan
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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWireless healthcare is, ultimately, a consumer play. That was one key message built-in to both West Wireless Health Institute's Dr. Eric Topol's presentation and CardioNet's Director of Business Development Aaron Goldmuntz's presentation this week at the Qualcomm Smart Services Leadership Summit.

There are currently 1.2 million people who use mobile fitness products to track their vital signs while working out, Topol noted. It starts with fitness, but use cases for health and medical wireless health services are set to become increasingly popular. A recent ABI report found that 90 percent of the current wearable wireless sensor market is dominated by the fitness industry. By 2014, the market will swell to 400 million units, thanks in large part to growing use of sensors for healthcare and medical uses.

CardioNet may be one company that helps lead that change.

While we have long considered CardioNet's MCOT solution a clinician-facing diagnostic tool, Goldmuntz stressed throughout his presentation that the end user, the patient, is still one of its key customers. CardioNet's system must be comfortable for the patient to wear and easy for them to use. In the end, of course, the system is also designed to help them get well, too.

Wireless remote monitoring of arrhythmia may not be quite like the empowering experience that many consumer-facing wireless health services promise to bring to market in the coming years, but CardioNet has its eye on wireless solutions that address everything from diabetes and sleep apnea to hypertension management. While the company may not expand into those areas for years to come, it certainly points to a growing consensus that the consumer side of wireless health looks to be a robust opportunity.

The overt stress at Qualcomm's event on the consumer opportunity in wireless health was not lost on me, especially since last week I noted in this column that it seemed like funding dollars were only chasing clinician-facing wireless health start-ups right now. While last week's conclusion stands as a snapshot of the wireless health industry today, the greater opportunity clearly remains in leveraging wireless health services to empower and enable patients to take better care of their own health.

If you disagree, be sure to check out our coverage of Cisco's Dr. Danny Sands' keynote from the World Health Congress' Wireless Health event in Boston this past week. Sands illuminated the (many) challenges facing those looking to get doctors to add another "whiz bang" gadget to their already comically-crowded Batman utility belt.

So while the venture capitalist's focus may be on clinical products with a good chance at attaining reimbursement and the majority of wireless sensors are being used for fitness applications and services instead of consumer-facing medical ones, the space between the "clinical" and the "fitness" opportunities for wireless health is still very much the sweet spot for this emerging industry.

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