Mobile health innovation doesn't have to be about reinventing the wheel

There are many truths about technology innovation, but a big one is that sometimes there is no need to reinvent the wheel, as one of our news reports this week reveals.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering are proving that adage true in taking a big page from a well-entrenched approach to manufacturing and applying it to the development of new wearable mHealth patches. The result very likely could be cheaper patch manufacturing. 

Lead researcher Nanshu Lu and her team took a long hard look at the two-step production approach in roll-to-roll manufacturing--which taps flexible plastic and a processing machine to build devices in bulk--and realized the same approach could be tweaked to make a wearable healthcare patch.

The reason this is so important is that many mHealth device designers aren't doing the obvious as a first step; they aren't realizing that the great value in current processes, form factors and computing infrastructures beckons as a ripe development platform for future innovation. A few of the best analogies includes the transformation of the PC, the evolution of the automobile, advancements in everyday machines we rely on such as refrigerators, vacuums, washing machines. Today's innovative features don't require having to re-invent any of those items, but instead use a critical eye on what can be improved and how to make that enhancement happen.

Regarding wearable patches, Lu's team adopted a technology already proven viable and cut manufacturing time for a disposable mHealth tattoo-life patch from several days to under a half hour.

The impact and ripple effect of such a new approach could prove to be one of the most compelling developments to push wearables ahead in terms of mHealth features and functionality.

Currently, the promise of mHealth wearable lies mostly with devices that consumers could soon tire of carrying. The opportunity to slap on a new wearable patch every day, under clothes, for less than a dollar a day, is a compelling proposition. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)