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Qualcomm Life Q&A: How Capsule Deal Expands Its Reach in Healthtech

Xconomy San Diego — 

Just a few weeks after Qualcomm Life acquired Andover, MA-based Capsule Technologie in September, the FDA cleared the newest version of Capsule’s patient monitoring system, SmartLinx Vitals Plus, for use as a medical device.

The timing was fortuitous, and Qualcomm Life says it will begin deploying SmartLinx Vitals Plus to key customers through the rest of this year, with wider distribution beginning in 2016.

The system combines patient monitoring and clinical documentation, giving hospitals and other Capsule customers a more comprehensive record of patient care.

Perhaps more importantly, the Capsule acquisition helps Qualcomm Life extend the reach of its wireless health technologies into hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and should help solidify parent company Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ: QCOM) position in the medical market of the Internet of Things.

What will that extended reach look like? The FDA’s 510(k) clearance, announced on Oct. 21, gave me an opportunity to pose a few questions about the deal to Rick Valencia, general manager of Qualcomm Life, and Kevin Phillips, Capsule’s vice president of marketing and product management. They responded by e-mail, and I have edited and condensed their answers.

Xconomy: Why did Qualcomm Life acquire Capsule before the FDA had cleared Capsule’s SmartLinx Vitals Plus?

Rick Valencia: The timing of the FDA ruling wasn’t factored into the acquisition, though it was a big bonus when it was approved. Capsule has many successful and growing product lines in the market today within the SmartLinx Medical Device Integration System. So the value of the acquisition wasn’t necessarily driven by Vitals Plus. The Vitals Plus product is just the latest in that suite, focused on the ambulatory environment within the hospital and facilities outside of the hospital.

X: How does Capsule’s business model and strategy fit with Qualcomm Life?

RV: Capsule’s business model and strategy are very well aligned, and was actually key in our decision to acquire Capsule.

Qualcomm Life general manager Rick Valencia

Rick Valencia

RV: Qualcomm Life and Capsule share a common philosophy and platform design—an open, vendor-neutral approach has enabled both companies to attract and build an expansive ecosystem of medical devices, sensors, applications, electronic medical records (EMRs), and health information exchanges. Additional synergies and core competencies that both companies share include our successful integration track records, leadership in connectivity and a focus on interoperability. Qualcomm Life and Capsule also complement each other by connecting disconnected devices, making them interoperable, integrating data across platforms, providing exception-based smart software, and integrating with EMRs, ultimately completing the hospital-to-home-care continuum.

Additionally, the acquisition of Capsule is aligned with Qualcomm Life’s vision of “a world with access to health care anytime, anywhere.”  By combining Qualcomm Life’s wireless expertise and ecosystem of connected medical devices outside of the hospital with Capsule’s leadership for connecting medical devices, EMRs, and IT systems across the hospital enterprise, Qualcomm Life is creating one of the world’s largest, open connected health ecosystems to deliver intelligent care.

X: Does the SmartLinx Vitals Plus use wireless technology to collect data from multiple instruments? How will it be integrated with Qualcomm Life’s 2Net mobile health platform?

Kevin Phillips: SmartLinx Vitals Plus is a patient monitoring system that uniquely integrates vital signs monitoring, clinical documentation, connectivity, and an early warning scoring system into a single device.

Vitals Plus uses the SmartLinx Neuron 2 mobile clinical computer and standard medical grade ports (USB and RJ45 serial connections) to physically integrate with the latest innovative medical grade vital signs modules and sensors.

Given that the patient is already physically attached to a blood pressure module, we opted for the simplicity of wired connections rather than deal with wireless pairing issues. Once data is acquired by the Neuron, it wirelessly integrates with the healthcare facility’s wireless network. Our objective was to consolidate our medical technology and hospital workflows into a single, easy-to-use device.

There is a universal movement towards seamless wireless communication between monitors, sensors and our SmartLinx Neuron. We certainly anticipate leveraging Qualcomm’s wireless technology leadership in this process. The future of healthcare will require easier ways to continuously monitor patients with less invasive means.

X: How far does the SmartLinx Vitals Plus technology extend beyond a hospital?

KP: SmartLinx Vitals Plus is intended for use by trained clinicians to capture patient vital signs data in any healthcare setting. We see immediate uses in acute care hospital departments such as pre-op, surgery, and emergency; ambulatory surgery centers; post-acute care facilities; outpatient clinics; and large physician practices.

In contrast to the Qualcomm Life 2net hubs, the SmartLinx Vitals Plus patient monitoring system is not intended for use directly by the patient. Future evolutions of this product will contemplate technology convergence between the SmartLinx Vitals Plus system and Qualcomm Life’s 2net technology to seamlessly capture data, wherever the patient or consumer may be.

Capsule Technologie VP Kevin Phillips

Kevin Phillips