Simple mobile fitness apps make it look easy. Your mobile device (e.g. a smartphone) connects with a remote sensor or device locally (device-to-device), and then uploads the received data to a cloud portal that you can access to review, analyse and often share the archived data with other people in your network (person-to-person).
But complicating this simple model, each app and each sensor likely records and transmits the data in a proprietary format to a proprietary portal ‘owned’ by the sensor vendor. The more apps and sensors you use from different vendors, the more portals you have to access.
And more importantly, you cannot correlate the different data streams. As I have discussed before, very significant benefit in terms of health monitoring can be derived when multiple parameters are compared over time.
So it would seem that a common portal or platform that consolidates the data streams and provides analytic tools would be ideal. This was the idea behind Google Health, a service launched several years ago, but terminated on 1 January 2012. Here’s what Google had to say about it:
“When we launched Google Health, our goal was to create a service that would give people access to their personal health and wellness information…
There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts…
In the end, while we weren’t able to create the impact we wanted with Google Health, we hope it has raised the visibility of the role of the empowered consumer in their own care. We continue to be strong believers in the role information plays in healthcare and in improving the way people manage their health, and we’re always working to improve our search quality for the millions of users who come to Google every day to get answers to their health and wellness queries.”
Another tech giant, Microsoft, continues to support a comparable effort: HealthVault. – see the overview. Broadly speaking the service provides data capture from some apps, consolidated health record storage, information presentation during routine and emergency visits, and fitness support.
A major issue with HealthVault is that it is proprietary, and so only certain apps can and do use it.
The there is another issue – HealthVault is not available in all countries. I live in Canada, where a HealthVault-powered service is provided by TELUS is branded health space. TELUS is best known as a telecommunications company. Healthcare systems differ markedly between different countries, so the preferred solution to this wicked problem may differ between countries.
The examples above illustrate some early efforts by technology giants and a telecommunications company. There are other players.
One of the most successful, online, medical information vendors to consumers, which emerged during the early days of the Internet, is WebMD. The company has become active in mobile healthcare, and provides a number of its own mobile apps for all of the major mobile platforms. The company claims 22 million page views/month of its mobile webpage.
Recently WebMD announced its Health Cloud platform, due out this Fall (2013). The service aims to help consumers manage their health across multiple screens and biometric devices:
"Biometric sensors are also proliferating and they are powerful, but we don't yet have a mass market. Most consumers don't understand these sensors outside of the fitness space. They don't understand these devices are there and can have a meaningful impact on their health."
At least WebMD recognize the technology has not yet ‘crossed the chasm’ to use Geoffrey Moore’s phrase.
Interestingly, WebMD have partnered with Qualcomm to deliver this service. Qualcomm is a telecommunications device manufacturer and technology licensor. Its participation is to provide an underlying communications approach that works as well for sensors in a multitude of different devices and locations as it does for smartphones, which is the idea behind Qualcomm’s 2net platform: http://www.qualcommlife.com/wireless-health.
So clearly, the intended participation of so many different types of commercial organizations in the communication and storage of health data is but one element of its ‘wickedness’.