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Long regarded as the "Wild, Wild West" of the healthcare landscape, mobile healthcare is slowly coming to grips with its need for protection and cooperation.
In a move sure to make many developers and analysts take notice, AirStrip Technologies has announced that it has secured a patent for the intellectual property that operates as a foundation for its mobile patient monitoring platform. Issued on Aug. 28, the patent allows the San Antonio-based developer of mobile technology solutions to control how its products are used to push physiological data through smartphones, tablets and other medical devices.
"As the first an only global company to offer FDA-cleared applications that deliver live and historic patient physiologic monitoring data to mobile devices, AirStrip has a responsibility to exercise its patent protection in ways that rapidly drive the evolution of mHealth in a uniform and positive direction," company CEO Alan Portela said in a press release issued on Sept. 11. "Ultimately, this commitment will measurably improve patient safety, minimize risks in the provision of care, improve outcomes and encourage the migration to population health management. The patent allows us to offer our partners and clients the assurance that AirStrip will continue to innovate and lead the evolution of mobile health solutions and standards."
The announcement plants a stake in territory that is slowly coming into focus, with a host of federal agencies, independent coalitions and even private companies looking to carve out regulatory guidelines and standards. They include the federal Food and Trade Commission, who has cracked down on mobile app developers over false advertising; the Food and Drug Administration, which is set to release guidelines for the governance of mobile medical apps; the Continua Health Alliance, a not-for-profit coalition which has been pushing for a set of common standards for data transmitted on mobile devices; and Happtique, which has developed its own certification program for mobile medical apps.
In addition, the mHealth field has seen a number of skirmishes between vendors seeking to define their product portfolios. Among them is Robert Bosch Healthcare Systems, which filed suit earlier this year against MedApps, Express MD Solutions and Waldo Health over mobile health monitoring technology that reportedly infringes on technology used in Bosch's Health Buddy solution. Waldo Health has since settled with Bosch and now licenses the Bosch technology.
In an interview last week, Portela and Cameron Powell, MD, AirStrip's president and chief medical officer, said the patent (the company is seeking several more) gives AirStrip a strong footing on which to build partnerships with other vendors and providers. They pointed out that the mHealth industry is fragmented and will need market leaders to make sure the innovations and advances are meaningful.
"We think this has far-reaching implications," said Powell, who co-founded the company with Trey Moore, its chief technology officer. "Everybody is trying to play catch-up or 'Me, too' in the mHealth industry right now, and there are going to be some not-well-thought-out applications out there."
"The market understands that mHealth is going to be a dominant theme and a requirement going forward," added Portela. "The bar is being set high, and we need the ability to trust the data and devices."
One of the stronger relationships is with San Diego-based Qualcomm, which launched its 2net home monitoring platform late last year and has gathered close to 100 partners into what is billed as a device-agnostic gateway between the home and the healthcare provider. Powell called the 2net hub part of the "virtual hospital" of the future.
"In our view, we're providing the right tools to caregivers that will help drive adoption/utilization of mHealth," added Portela, who said the company's broad IP portfolio will help it define the mHealth landscape beyond the walls of the hospital. "We are moving beyond just being a part of the system to developing a whole, integrated system."
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