Expanding Wireless Health Summit Looks to Inform and Change Patient Behavior

5/9/11Follow @bvbigelow

After years of carefully shepherding San Diego’s emerging mobile health industry, Rob McCray says the sixth annual wireless health convergence summit that begins tomorrow in downtown San Diego isn’t just about “convergence” any more.

McCray, who is CEO of the nonprofit Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA), instead sounded a theme that seems to resonate in these uncertain economic times.

“The problems of healthcare have gotten worse,” McCray told me recently. “The United States and the world in general have started to wake up to the fact that access to healthcare is declining and costs are increasing. Just over the last 12 months, there’s been a marked increase in the intensity of concern—and in this convergence of technology and healthcare where we operate, we have this opportunity to increase access and reduce costs.”

So it’s not just about developing wireless innovations for use in healthcare, McCray said. As an example, he said Procter & Gamble has joined the WLSA as a global partner, and the Cincinnati, OH-based provider of Tide detergent, Duracell batteries, Pantene shampoo, and Pringles potato chips is neither a wireless nor a healthcare company. Yet P&G recognizes healthcare as a global market, with new opportunities emerging that could become important to the diverse consumer products company.

Rob McCray

For companies already focused on wireless health, McCray says the biggest challenge is to develop products and services “that actually bend the curve of healthcare costs.” Increasingly, the industry views changing patient behavior as the critical component to addressing the worldwide obesity epidemic and other long-term health concerns.

Changing behavior—consumer behavior—actually plays to the strengths of a company like Procter & Gamble, McCray said. Many of the services and mobile apps that are being developed as “wireless health” technologies are being designed to help consumers change their behavior, for example, by helping them to stop smoking or count their calories at each meal. And many of these offerings, especially those intended for use outside a clinic or hospital, “are only going to be effective if they can change behavior—change health care—for a long period of time,” McCray said.

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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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