There’s Less Pie in the Sky as Wireless Health Gets Connected

5/30/13Follow @bvbigelow

Attendance at the annual Wireless-Life Sciences Convergence Summit in San Diego has remained relatively steady in recent years (the first conference was held in 2006), but there has been a phase change in the industry over the past year. As with many emerging technologies, the wireless health industry has been growing slowly, slowly, slowly—and then suddenly very fast.

As it has from the beginning, the conference remains focused on healthcare information and services delivered via wireless networks and mobile devices. But there is a different look and feel this year. There is less pie in the sky. Instead of circling “mobile health” or “wireless health” as concepts unto themselves, the industry is coalescing around the bigger idea of “connected health”— of connecting sensors and devices to electronic health records and vast clouds of interactive healthcare information that can be personalized for millions of users.

“It’s exciting to see the market mature,” says Chris Hoffman, a senior director at TripleTree, a boutique investment bank in Minneapolis, MN, and an early sponsor of the San Diego-based Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA). “We’re seeing real solutions with real opportunities for interoperability.”

One sign of industry change is evident in the makeup of the conference itself. Of the 275 people attending the conference (the number of registrations is limited), 25 came from outside the United States (China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom.

To Hoffman, the catalyst that changed everything was the $293 million deal that Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth signed to acquire Epocrates, the San Mateo, CA-based developer of the No. 1 mobile medical app for U.S. physicians. Athenahealth is a leading provider of cloud-based electronic health records, practice management, and care coordination services to medical groups, and Epocrates—as Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush put it—is the “Angry Birds” of healthcare IT.

Venture investments for digital health startups also increased substantially, according to Wain Fishburn, a founding partner of the Cooley law firm’s San Diego office and a life sciences and venture capital practice leader. “Last year there was a tsunami of dollars invested in digital health,” said Fishburn, who told the audience that VC funding surged … Next Page »

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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