Startups eager to get mobile medical devices to market

Startups ventures bullish on the potential of mobile medical devices are flooding the test market with innovations that redefine the concept of home healthcare.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, there's the prosthetic leg from Orthocare Innovations that utilizes a cell phone app to adjust the heel height for wear with different shoes. It adjusts automatically when the user walks on an incline.

There's also a washable, sensor-embedded T-shirt from Rest Devices Inc. that measures respiration during sleep, shifting overnight sleep studies from hospitals and clinics to a patient's own bed. The data is uploaded from the shirt to a removable USB port for transfer to the clinician's office.

And the chip maker Qualcomm Inc. is offering $10 million to inventors who can develop a Star Trek-like "tricorder" that uses sensors to diagnose a dozen medical ailments including heart disease and diabetes. About 200 teams have pre-registered for the three-year competition, a Qualcomm spokesman told the paper.

The Journal noted that mobile medical device startups face challenges in attracting investors, and that many eventually will need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to enter the market.

But the government also has taken action that helps mobile medical devicemakers, with the Federal Communications Commission voting in May to open 40 MHZ of wireless spectrum for "medical body area networks," or MBANs, for transmitting information from and between mobile medical devices at home and in hospitals.

The global market for wearable technology such as the sleep-apnea T-shirt is expected to grow to $6 billion by 2016, according to a recent report by market research firm IMS Research. IMS expects healthcare-related devices to continue to comprise the bulk of that market.

To learn more:
- read the WSJ report