Nokia Technologies plans move into regulated clinical devices via Finnish hospital partnership

By Jonah Comstock
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Less than a month after completing its acquisition of connected health company Withings, Nokia Technologies has signaled its intention to pursue not just the direct to consumer space, as Withings did, but also the regulated clinical device space. Today Nokia Technologies announced that it would work with Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) and the University of Helsinki to develop new technologies for outpatient care, starting with remote patient monitoring solutions.

“Our vision is to empower people to make good decisions about their health by providing them and their physician with the critical information they need, when they need it,” Cedric Hutchings, vice president of digital health at Nokia Technologies and former Withings CEO, said in a statement. “I’m excited about our collaboration with HUS as it will help us extend our span of care from everyday health and wellness devices to clinical solutions that help improve patient/physician interaction while informing our continued research and development in the clinical space.”

It’s worth noting that, although it has mostly been a direct-to-consumer company, Withings has been getting FDA clearances for most of its devices since day one, which positions them well for a shift into the clinical space. When MobiHealthNews spoke to Hutchings after the acquisition announcement, he told us the barrier between regulated and consumer is fading away, in his view.

“The world is changing,” he said at the time. “Where we see the world as, on one hand, pure, unregulated, and on the other hand regulated, healthcare, medical, this frontier is fading away. We’ve been bold on developing popular devices that are both regulated and unregulated, because I think the future of healthcare is being able to put everyone in the driver seat of their own health, and that is about changing what’s meant by prevention. Prevention is about communication and knowledge, we need to change that into action, but for that we need to have solutions, devices that help us lead a healthier lifestyle in short and long-term ways."

According to Hutchings, the two ways the consumer and regulated spaces will collide are prevention and chronic disease management. He sees opportunities in both areas.

"Beyond prevention, there is a transformation that is happening thanks to consumer devices we see in the treatment and management of [chronic conditions]," he said. "Conditions you can live with for a very long period of time, provided you manage the condition and you enrich and get a smarter interaction with your doctor. That’s also where a consumer device, with all the features required for healthcare, can absolutely change the equation. These frontiers will be more and more crossed and this is a new field with a huge opportunity for new actors and new players.”

While the company’s announcement this week was light on specifics, Nokia did emphasize in a press release that the department of neurology at HUS is the largest neurology center in Finland and it focuses on “the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of diseases of the nervous system or the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system and muscles.” 

The center has a particular reputation for acute stroke care, which seems like the most likely area for this collaboration to focus on. High blood pressure is widely considered the most important risk factor for stroke, and blood pressure monitoring devices are a major part of the technology portfolio Nokia acquired when it bought Withings.

“At HUS, we see tremendous value in collaborating with innovative companies like Nokia to help the development of research-based knowledge into technologies that can drive more effective, personalized care for our patients,” Dr. Nina Forss, head of the department of neurology, said in a statement. “The department of Neurology at HUS is acknowledged worldwide for providing the best acute stroke care in the world. This new collaboration reflects our continued commitment to excellence in research and improves the health and care of our patients at the later stage of the treatment chain.”

The first initiative to come out of the partnership will launch this quarter. Nokia Technologies will also work with the two hospitals on clinical trials.