Connected Health: Optimism on the Horizon

By Santhosh Nair

Santhosh Photo

There are telling signs that mHealth is rapidly moving up the adoption curve. 

Earlier this year, Fuld & Company, a pioneer strategy consulting firm, conducted a national war gaming contest where leading business schools stress tested m-Health strategies of companies – ranging from large companies such as GE and Medtronic, to startups like Independa.

A few of the key takeaways from the exercise were:

  • Mergers, alliances and licensing agreements are inevitable – the partner ecosystem is very important
  • The value is in data integration, not killer applications
  • A back office service industry will emerge as a new service model
  • User centered design is the key to success

We are seeing the forces in motion already with the recent influx of venture capital in mHealth. Healthcare venture funding was up 75% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year.  Some of the recent investments include: Khosla Ventures’ $10.5M investment in AliveCor, an Oklahoma based startup that makes an iPhone based ECG app – as well as its $1M investment in CellScope, a smartphone based Otoscope. Misfit Wearable, a wearable devices startup co-founded by former Apple CEO John Scully, raising $7.6M in capital.  In addition, the $100M West Health Investment Fund has been active in investing in companies that have cutting edge healthcare technologies and services.

mHealth adoption requires companies to take a hard look at their core strategy. Interoperability, safety, security, standards and agility are keys to success in the connected health ecosystem. Products need to be designed to work well with other products, and they must be designed to be safe and effective. These products need to be secure – hence the need for DFS (design for safety/security). The design should incorporate standard off-the-shelf components so that devices can easily plug and play into the grid of connected health. Finally, companies need to focus on their core competencies, as organic growth will only happen through focus – and they must be nimble and adapt to an evolving ecosystem.

Healthcare companies that are incumbent players should start designing products that integrate with the lifestyles of the people they are designed to serve, such as the home health market. Because the value chain will get complicated with a larger number of alliance partners, it is critical to invest adequate time and resources into picking credible partners that can build components better and faster than you can. New entrants and/or startups should remember that it is not an "us vs. them" scenario, cooperation and partnerships are the secret weapon to entry.

Business in 2012 and beyond will be done more through collaboration and partnerships. Companies that don’t play well with others may get left behind in the game, no matter how big they are. Together, we can improve the quality of lives of those around us.


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