mHealth masters: Want success? Get personal

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Stephen Krupa is the senior managing member and chief operating officer for Psilos, having joined the company at its inception in 1998. He focuses primarily on identifying investment opportunities in next-generation healthcare services and healthcare IT companies. In addition, he advises many of Psilos' portfolio companies in the areas of capital formation and merger and acquisition strategy and structure. He has served on several Psilos portfolio company boards, including Active Health Management (exited), Extend Health (exited) and HealthScribe (exited). He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Caregiver Services, Care Management Technologies, HealthEdge Software, PatientSafe Solutions and HealthMine (formerly known as SeeChange Health Solutions). Prior to Psilos, he was a vice president at Wasserstein Perella & Co., a leading international investment bank.

Q. What's the one promise of mHealth that will drive the most adoption over the coming year?

A. E-commerce applications. We will see widespread adoption of simple consumer-oriented mobile apps that are similar to what we already see in industries outside of healthcare. They will include the purchase of home medical products and filling or renewing prescriptions. In certain markets apps for provider appointments, follow-ups and confirmations should gain a lot of traction.

Q. What mHealth technology will become ubiquitous in the next 5 years? Why?

A. Five years used to be a very short period of time in the healthcare business, which is notably slow to change. Whether the capabilities of mobile and Internet computing can speed things up remains to be seen, but there certainly is a historical push in the start-up community to fund companies that are using this infrastructure as a way to disrupt healthcare. So it may be possible for some pretty good ideas to gain traction faster than in the past.

I think it’s a sure thing that we will see widespread use of mHealth for remote patient monitoring and telehealth. (We invested in this area many years ago, and we were too early, but the time is now).

If we can see some progress on interoperability - continue to watch the Epic situation here - then I would look for hospitals to add secure mobile communications, workflow and point-of-care networks inside hospitals and across their discharge provider networks.

Finally, if we can get a real-time digital network working, then the evolution of consumer apps into a very personalized experience has a lot of exciting possibilities, well beyond what might be offered today with products like iTriage. I would expect to see a new generation of apps offered independently and through the sponsorship of employers, providers and insurers (not necessarily health insurers only - see what John Hancock is doing with Vitality, for example). It’s my hope that they will be able to access claims, EHRs and user-entered data in real time and connect to a whole new generation of medical-device-worthy wearables. When that happens, the possibilities for mHealth are endless.

Q. What's the most cutting-edge application you're seeing now? What other innovations might we see in the near future?

A. The migration of wearables into medical devices is the best application.

The commercial wearables out today are notoriously inaccurate and amount to mere toys.  But if they evolve into reliable medical devices - and this is just a matter of allowing computing progress and innovation the time to play out - then, in combination with the mobile network, we are going to have the means to begin to focus on the prevention of chronic illness, which honestly is the most cutting-edge idea I know of in healthcare.

For this to work we need a generation of cost-effective, easy-to-use wearables that can monitor or derive a menu of personal health data like blood pressure, glucose readings, heart rate and brain activity, to name a few. Then we can build the software to deliver real personalized health analysis and management programs.

Take a look at a company like Electrozyme, which is developing a printed, flexible strip sensor that measures electrolyte balance, hydration, muscle exertion and physical performance. Extract their and others’ work out five years and we are really going to be someplace very new and cool.

Q. What mHealth tool or trend will likely die out or fail?

A. Anything that’s not personalized is doomed. Here come the Millennials, and they are going to start having families, which means they are going to become meaningful healthcare customers. They are used to getting what they want when they want it, and they are used to personalized connections through technology. These are the healthcare customers of the future, and anything mobile that is not built with them in mind is over before it can even get started.