Qualcomm’s Don Jones and the Year of Inflection for Wireless Health

6/18/09Follow @bvbigelow

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ambulances to hospital emergency rooms. “I was in the health services business, which was using technology but just not thinking of it as [wireless] technology,” Jones says.

Jones says he really began thinking about the convergence of healthcare and wireless technologies in 1999 or 2000, when he was working with OnCall Medicine, a San Diego company that provided medical house calls. Jones says he was invited by Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs to look at wireless technology that Qualcomm had developed as a data management and device platform. Jones says the technology later became the platform used by CardioNet, a San Diego startup now based in Pennsylvania, to continuously monitor and transmit patients’ heartbeat data without requiring them to be hospitalized.

Jones later joined forces with McCray, who was a co-founder of OnCall Medicine and who had worked with Jones at a physician practice management company called HealthCap. McCray became “involved when Qualcomm started to focus attention on healthcare as a vertical industry,” said Peter Erickson, managing partner of Triple Tree, a Minneapolis, MN, investment banking firm. “We did some initial work with Qualcomm in evaluating the market opportunity.”

Triple Tree’s work for Qualcomm “was a little bit outside of our normal role, which is transaction-based,” said McCray, who was a Triple Tree advisor. “This was more consultative work.”

In 2005, McCray says he worked with Jones to get San Diego’s biotech industry and telecom industry together “via their trade associations” to co-sponsor a conference, “but we just couldn’t pull it off.”

As a result, McCray and Jones decided to do it on their own. They persuaded Qualcomm and Johnson & Johnson to provide corporate support, and co-founded the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance. McCray says San Diego’s first wireless-life sciences convergence summit was a one-day affair in 2006 that drew only about 30 people, but he counted it as a success. Last month, nearly 300 people registered for the event.

Nowadays, Jones spends less time explaining what wireless-healthcare convergence means, and says the area is “starting to bubble to the top” with an increasing presence by healthcare companies. And he adds, “This is kind of the year when a lot of new companies have been coming out of the garage.”

Some examples of emerging companies in wireless healthcare:

Epocrates. Based in San Mateo, CA, Epocrates has developed medical reference software and clinical information and decision support tools for wireless mobile devices and PDAs. Epocrates’ recently alerted 225,000 physicians via its mobile and online alert services that the psoriasis drug Raptiva had been pulled from the market because it may play a role in a potentially fatal brain condition called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

Proteus Biomedical. Based in Redwood City, CA, Proteus is developing an “intelligent systems” approach that integrates integrate electronics, sensors, and wireless communications into medical devices and pharmaceuticals. For example, Proteus is developing devices that allow cardiac resynchronization therapy to be optimized to a patient’s cardiovascular physiology.

IntelliDot. Based in San Diego, has developed a handheld wireless device for nurses and other caregivers that enables them to perform safety checks—right patient, right medication, right dose, right time—and enables hospitals to meet a variety of joint commission standards.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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