Sotera Wireless Prepares to Take Pulse of Market for Vital-Signs Device

5/11/10

As representatives of the emerging mobile health industry convene for their annual summit today in La Jolla, it seemed both timely and appropriate to revisit San Diego-based Sotera Wireless. The company, which was founded six years ago as Triage Wireless, jumped onto our radar screen in April after the medical device company successfully raised nearly $11 million from Qualcomm, Intel, West Family Holdings, and other investors. Last week, I caught up with CEO Tom Watlington to learn more about the company and came away convinced that Sotera, which is within a year of launching its first mobile device, would continue to remain in our sights.

Sotera’s wireless device, dubbed ViSi (for vital signs) and aimed at the hospital market, continuously monitors blood pressure, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen levels and heart rate. The device, a wristband slightly larger than a sports watch, collects vital signs information through two sensors—one on the chest, and one on the thumb—and transmits the data to a hospital workstation. If vital signs deteriorate, an alert goes out.

Tom Watlington

Tom Watlington

Watlington tells me that hospitals, often faced with more critically ill patients than their ICUs can handle, want a device that will allow them to continuously monitor the vital signs of very sick patients on general hospital floors. Currently, nurses check these patients’ blood pressure and other vital signs at intervals throughout the day. But Watlington maintains these snapshots can miss the earliest signs that a patient is starting to go downhill.

ViSi doesn’t predict a patient will have a heart attack or some other bad outcome, but functions as an early warning system that a problem may be developing. “Our goal is to develop technology that is very, very sensitive to the earliest signs of deterioration in a patient and alert the doctor or the nurse that something may be emerging so they can intervene,” he said.

Last year, Sotera tested a prototype device for measuring blood pressure at three San Diego hospitals. The 50-patient clinical study pitted the prototype against … Next Page »

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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