Sprint enters remote health business

The remote patient monitoring space just got a little more crowded. Sprint announced late last week it is launching a new gateway/hub product with veteran home monitoring company Ideal Life, of Toronto, Canada. 

The model should sound pretty familiar by now (Verizon and Qualcomm have similar offerings). Ideal Life will provide a series of at-home remote monitors for blood pressure, weight, glucose readings, mobility and other vitals. A gateway/hub device will collect data from the monitors wirelessly and funnel it to the Ideal Life's cloud-based database, where it can be accessed by caregivers and physicians. The combined system also sends alerts to caregivers, physicians and others when readings are out of normal range.

Sprint provides the embedded cellular connectivity to transmit the aggregated data and messaging, the company's partner manager Kelly Robinson tells FierceMobileHealthcare. The wireless connectivity in the home is part of what drew Sprint's interest, she indicates, allowing monitors to be placed in different areas of the home, such as a scale in the bathroom, rather than at a single monitoring station.

One way that the Sprint/Ideal Life deal is a bit different than Verizon or Qualcomm's gateway/hub systems is its focus on Ideal Life as a central vendor/developer of the monitors, monitoring system, etc. But Ideal Life is looking to expand beyond its existing stable to products, operations director Scott Flacks tells FMH. Today the company announced a partnership with PositiveID to integrate its iGlucose meter into the gateway system. And he's pursuing other types of monitors, such as wearable sensors and the like, to bring into the fold.

The gateway/hub service, while new in mHealth, is certainly welcome, according to Robert Havasy, customer operations manager for Partners Healthcare's Center for Connected Health in Boston.

"Well-designed home monitoring hubs and systems can make the job of integrating remote monitoring data easier for a hospital. It's always easier to build one pipe to a central data warehouse and let the vendor handle the complexity of collection and ongoing support from multiple monitoring devices," he tells FMH.

But who wins the remote monitoring wars will depend on who solves one key problem: Standardizing the data streams from various remote monitoring devices and systems, he says.

"Almost all vendors provide some kind of proprietary web interface for clinicians to interact with data they collect, but in the real world of healthcare few clinicians have time to learn and log into proprietary systems to view data," he says. Clinicians need a standard data setup that allows them to view any data from any system on virtually any device, he adds.

Another crucial problem will be the clinical decision-making segment of remote monitoring gateway/hub systems, notes Steven Deal, telemedicine director for Inova Health Systems.

"The critical piece is how to parse the data. Physicians and clinicians primarily want to see actionable events and not the entire data stream. The value is applying work flow processes behind the data to send alerts when the patient's vital trends are moving in the wrong direction," he says.

The vendor who creates the smartest, most reliable algorithms and delivery system for alerts may well be the last vendor standing.
Either way, we'll be watching to see who meets both of these challenge first, for sure.

To learn more:
- read Sprint's press release