Qualcomm(s QCOM) is selling a gadget that aggregates data from different biosensors and medical devices in the home and plants it in a cloud database from where physicians and nurses can access real-time biometric data about their patients. Verizon Wireless(s VZ)(s VOD) is developing a “virtual care” platform, built on the back of its new LTE network, which will allow doctors to use video over smartphones and tablets to make virtual house calls. The wireless industry is moving more aggressively into telemedicine, seeing the potential of a healthcare system unfettered by wires, not to mention the huge business opportunity.
At the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Qualcomm announced the creation of a new division called Qualcomm Life — replacing its Wireless Health business – overseeing its new 2net mobile and cloud telemedicine platform. The heart of the system is the 2net Hub, a wireless gateway that can link to any wireless sensor or device through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT+, encrypt that data and send it securely to the 2net cloud.
The hub isn’t the only way to transmit that medical data, though. Medical devices with their own cellular radios can upload biometrics directly to the 2net cloud as can smartphones loaded with health monitoring apps. Qualcomm has designed APIs that hospitals, doctors and insurance companies can use to integrate 2net into their healthcare systems, allowing them to retrieve patient information as well as upload any medical data they have compiled. Qualcomm also announced that it is starting a $100 million fund, managed by Qualcomm’s venture capital arm, that will seek out and invest in other mobile health startups.
Verizon is also developing its own cloud-based platform to connect medical devices to a common diagnostic database working with Entra Health Systems. But Verizon’s big contribution to mobile health may lie in its ability to transmit massive amounts of information between doctors and their patients over a far-flung network. New tablet video chat and conferencing abilities paired with diagnostic sensors could be used to approximate the office check up, used for follow-ups after a procedure or a new prescriptions and even as a means of instant communications during minor emergencies.
While it’s easy to think of telemedicine being primarily a solution for the old and the infirm, it has the potential to target a much wider swath of the public. New wirelessly connected pill caps can remind patients to take their medication and even notify a doctor if a patient goes to long without popping a prescribed pill. New exercise and diet monitoring devices can deliver real-time information useful for preventative medicine and monitoring overall fitness (your doctor will know if you’ve been lying about that daily 3-mile jog). Plus, new wireless technologies could expand healthcare to areas where hospitals and clinics are few and far between. Verizon plans to expand its LTE network to rural areas through spectrum-leasing partnerships with small regional operators. A 4G connection might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to delivering remote healthcare to traditionally underserved areas.