Anthony Shimkin: Qualcomm Life’s Platforms for Unplatforms

Anthony Shimkin is the senior director of marketing of Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated that focuses on device connectivity and data management. He will appear on the Platforms for Unplatforms panel at the upcoming Health 2.0 Fall Conference. For more posts from the conference speaker interview series, click here

Indu Subaiya: You’re going to be joining us on a panel called Platforms for Unplatforms which is kind of a very funny Health 2.0 expression, implying that we now have a number of really compelling and interesting large technology platform players entering the space. You guys have already been in this space for a number of years, and have been doing fantastic things with mobile health.

But there is now this explosion of healthcare-specific niche applications that in some ways kind of need these larger platforms to be disseminated and distributed, and so we’d love to hear the latest from what you’re doing at Qualcomm to kind of sort of spark the marketplace here?

Anthony Shimkin: Sure. Just as a quick background, Qualcomm Life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qualcomm. We launched the business here in the United States back in December of 2011. There were a couple of pieces around that announcement that really were germane to our business and how we’re driving that business forward.

The first is that Qualcomm Life is really the healthcare unit now for Qualcomm. Second, we launched the 2net system which is comprised of a series of four different gateways as well as our 2net platform.

We have our 2net hub which is an FDA listed home health device that will actually establish communications with disparate medical devices in the home, and take those results through a wireless connection, and then send over a cellular connection to our secure 2net platform.

At the same time, we actually also have three other gateways: for mobile devices, and applications, that’s our second, and our third for embedded devices. Qualcomm obviously has a rich history in embedded chips.

And last but not least is platform to platform integration. At this conference we’re going to talk more about platforms, but one of the compelling things that we have around our design is working with other companies out there to integrate their platform and their data into ours as well; it’s an open, cloud-based secure platform.

Qualcomm has really had an extensive history in terms of connectivity with nearly 20-plus years now in the M2M space. Qualcomm got its start in the OmniTRACS business involving trucking, logistics and tracking.

So, that’s just a very high-level overview of where we’re going here. In the future, as we previously announced at the end of last year, is our intent to launch Qualcomm Life in Europe. And with that we have a certain customer list that we’re already targeting as well as new customers in the European region that have asked for our products and services and access to those.

Indu Subaiya: From your perspective where do you think the most momentum and uptake of these types of devices, and is it in the home among the sort of senior demographic, is it just out there among consumers in everyday life for kind of tracking your fitness and your nutrition, is it within the hospital setting? Given that you guys have such a broad view into the market, what are your observations of where the real hot pockets of activity are?

Anthony Shimkin: It’s a great question. Places that we’re starting to see traction pick up include the service provider side for starters.

When you look at the issue of hospital re-admissions for instance, coming up in October with new legislation, and there are hospitals out there looking for solutions around handling their readmits in that 30-day window, the uptake is becoming clearer.

For those who aren’t familiar, hospitals will be penalized anywhere from 1-3% of Medicare payments for not meeting up to certain standards around handling hospital re-admissions, amongst chronic or diseased patients for instance.

That’s an area that we’re starting to see more interest in what types of telehealth or mobile solutions are out there that these patients can be discharged with. Obviously the fitness and wellness market is another area that is really starting to gain traction. Especially as we roll into the holidays here, you obviously have some of those fitness fanatics interested in mHealth solutions.

Now it’s out there for anyone who wants to track just about everything around their vital signs, their weight, their activity levels, and they are often willing to pay 100% out of pocket for those devices or for those software solutions and services.

And then you’re starting to see a real pick-up in applications, whether it’s for pharmaceutical companies in terms of putting out branded drugs and marketing to those end users. People actually tracking their fitness as we mentioned, and there could be other applications around chronic disease management. The app market is growing extremely quickly.

Along those lines, one of the things that we find is very compelling when we launched our 2net Platform is to provide an open ecosystem to bring these different types of service providers, device manufacturers, and app developers together to offer new and innovative solution sets whether it’s a new application or connectivity for a device itself.

We actually have our app and SDK Developers challenge going on right now. Those winners will be announced at the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance conference in October to really try to foster innovative and new ways to tackle some of our most pressing healthcare problems.

So those are just a few of the areas that I briefly mentioned where we’re starting to see a lot more interest in the pick up of mobile health solutions and remote monitoring solutions.

And I’m sure as we go forward one of the key issues that I think is going to break this market wide open is that of reimbursement. We’re starting to see a lot more interest here at not only higher levels of government, but on the payers’ side as well.

We’re actually seeing payers purchase application or app developers, and you’re starting to actually see a pick-up in Europe as well in terms of some of those initial waves of reimbursement for these types of solutions.

So as we evolve it seems to me that the proof in the value is really out there. There are a lot of different pilots going on, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe and the Far East. And I think at this point it’s just getting comfortable with the technology, making sure that it works as advertised and also proving it out that those value parameters are met., It’s a very promising solution to a lot of different issues that are really part and parcel of healthcare crisis right now.

So we’re excited and we think we’ve got a great growth trajectory not only for Qualcomm Life, but this industry in general for the next 5-10 years.

Indu Subaiya: Fantastic! Just one other question for you, Anthony, as we kind of wind up and look forward to your longer discussion on stage in San Francisco.

When we used to think of the EMR market, a number of years ago, the question was always about interoperability and integration of data from many different applications. And now as we enter this world of kind of devices and sensors and mobile apps, how are you at Qualcomm thinking about this issue of integration or of kind of bringing together data from these multiple sources of that, from the consumer’s standpoint it can be manageable and accessible easily?

Anthony Shimkin: It’s interesting you brought that question up, Indu. Actually I had a meeting yesterday with an outside company that is doing just that and we’ve actually spoken with several.

For us, I think as we evolve at Qualcomm Life, we are very receptive to where our customers have made investments. Obviously in the hospital market all roads lead to meaningful use here and you’re talking billions of dollars that have been invested in these clinical information systems or electronic medical records.

So when you look at what’s going on in the home and actually getting these biometric data readings, is there a way to make sure that those work in coordination with certain investments that hospitals have already made?

So I think we are very sensitive to this fact and it’s on our roadmap to provide those types of services and solutions.

Let’s say for the home-based device manufacturer that has a weight scale or a blood pressure cuff or glucose meter, how do you not only manage that data on a platform like 2net from Qualcomm Life but also port it in a very secure fashion to the platform that the service provider, in this case a hospital or hospital system, so that they can use that data in their existing systems?

That’s one of the things that’s very alluring and the key differentiator for our platform is that we are opening it up. And again, in a very secure environment that meets HIPAA requirements. This is important to the different customers and partners that we work with, because this whole issue is not only interoperability, but being able to port biometric data to where it’s needed on the front lines.

If you just look at the growth of a lot of these different technology platforms, for instance, we know now that the mobile platform is now the largest technology platform in the history of mankind. You actually now have more mobile connections worldwide than human beings on earth. How is that going to change healthcare? How many new populations that didn’t have access to care before may now have access to care at a basic level through a simple cell-phone?

So when you look at where the possibilities are, not only in electronic medical records and larger clinical information systems, but different data sets either on mobile or tablets or sensors or even embedded chips in the human body, the possibilities are limitless. And actually having infrastructure to handle that I think is critical for these different vendors going forward.

So we are very excited, and there are just so many possibilities here on so many different elements of how care is delivered and provided and managed. I think we’re going to be dealing with some of our more pressing problems here in health care over the next five years.

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