Five questions with Paul E. Jacobs

By Eric Wicklund, Editor, mHIMSS

Qualcomm's CEO and Chairman of the Board -- and Wednesday's keynote speaker -- offers his view of the mHealth landscape.

Paul E. Jacobs, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Qualcomm, Inc., will deliver one of Wednesday's keynote speeches at the mHealth Summit. The San Diego-based telecommunications provider is a lead sponsor of the event and host of an expanded, 32-exhibit Wireless Health Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall.

Jacobs will speak at 9:30 a.m. in Potomac Ballroom A-B. He is expected to address the rapid evolution of mobile technology and its ever-expanding opportunities in the healthcare industry.

"We are very pleased to have Qualcomm involved in the 2011 mHealth Summit in such a strategic capacity," said Richard Scarfo, director of the mHealth Summit at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, in a press release. "By injecting the entrepreneurial dynamic of technology leaders – such as Qualcomm – at the Summit, we are able to deepen the technology discussions, elevate development opportunities, connect high-profile influencers in multiple industries, and advance cross-sectoral collaboration in the field of mHealth."

Jacobs recently offered his thoughts on some of the most important issues facing the mHealth community:

Q. Should mHealth be considered a "disruptive technology?" Why or why not?

Mobile Health – or mHealth – is truly a complementary technology. For example, in environments with limited or no access to care or health information, mHealth may take on a primary role such as counterfeit drug identification services offered by companies like Pharma Secure in India or mPedigree in Africa, or pregnancy prenatal coaching services offered by Text4Baby.

mHealth also simplifies health processes, services and data gathering techniques. A good example of this is Zoc Doc, which is a bit like Open Table for healthcare, simplifying physician and diagnostic service appointment scheduling, saving time and provider costs.

However, mHealth could become disruptive if the sales channels available through the large, global wireless operators are leveraged to offer new health services. One example is Jitterbug, offering 24/7 nurse advice and medication reminders within mobile phone subscription plans. Global wireless operators have unique capabilities to collect and distribute funds and adopt solutions onto their enterprise sales, M2M infrastructures — and even retail operations.
 
As we have seen in entertainment and music, telecom providers can sell and service multiple products. And mobile banking will take this even further. Could a wireless operator partner with a brand name health provider to offer a health plan with mobile scheduling, nurse advice, treatment, remote monitoring and therapy tools? I think it's possible in the developed world, and inevitable in the developing world.

Q. What kind of changes will mHealth make to the healthcare landscape within the coming year?

In developed countries we will see changes spurred by new apps that offer an array of beneficial services … apps that help people find the best healthcare providers, receive information regarding urgent and emergency care wait times, help individuals manage chronic conditions and offer competitive, engaging solutions to lose weight or get in shape. And we are already starting to see Fortune 500 companies like AT&T, with its Well Doc app, distributing these types of offerings to employees and dependents. Similarly, large insurers like Aetna with its iTriage solution along with healthcare providers and retailers' solutions like Walgreens Mobile, which allows you to refill your prescription by scanning the bottle's bar code from your device, are helping to drive this change. These types of consumer offerings are only going to become more and more prevalent throughout the healthcare market.
 
We'll also see novel solutions coming to market that leverage health sensors and multi-variable analytics to deliver a personalized health dashboard that takes into account patient data from associated health devices and the environment including diet, medication and patient activity, These data streams can be "mashed up" to create predictive models to advise patients, healthcare providers and caregivers on what to do next.
 
Another offering that we believe will have a significant impact is something called "personal supply chain management." In the same way that Apple changed the concept of a music store, we believe that mobile will redefine the way people access and manage medications and therapies. In addition to being used to refill drug prescriptions, there will be mobile solutions for managing chronic conditions like diabetes. Your mobile device will help ensure a steady and reliable supply of testing supplies, medications and insulin -- and even sugar-free food products.
 
As health companies embrace the value of having a direct, one-to-one relationship with consumers, they will be incentivized to build consumer loyalty programs that will take costs out of the distribution system. It's a win-win for consumers as well, who will benefit not just from the cost savings, but from the convenience of being able to order more... the moment they realize they are running low on supplies.

Q.  What should healthcare executives be doing to adapt mobile technologies to their enterprise?

Healthcare executives should examine cloud-based IT solutions as a way to increase their flexibility while improving their ability to access, analyze or transfer data. We are also rapidly moving away from devices that only gather information as nodes on the net and into a world of robust services that integrate seamlessly with connected devices.
 
Executives in the healthcare sector should also consider solutions that are developed by experienced teams of software engineers and clinical experts who understand how to harness the full power and capabilities of mobile technologies.
 
The mHealth solutions that will truly come alive are the ones that are developed specifically for the mobile world, leveraging the many unique characteristics that mobile and wireless have to offer. For example, mHealth apps need to take advantage of the combination of push technology, location-based services and health sensing devices to deliver actionable health feedback and engage the consumer exactly when they need it.
 
Healthcare executives should also focus on making the lives of consumers and patients easier. In an increasingly competitive healthcare environment, consumers – which range from physicians to patients to fitness junkies – will be attracted to convenience, just as they are in all other aspects of their life through new mobile offerings and services. And healthcare providers and suppliers who leverage the power of mobile to address this convenience factor will find they are addressing quality and costs as well.

Q.  How will mHealth change the physician-patient relationship?

mHealth will significantly enhance the physician-patient relationship as patients become empowered to self-manage chronic conditions in a more efficient manner, while gaining actionable feedback relating to their therapy and treatment. Consumer interfaces for healthcare services will undoubtedly expand beyond offering only face-to-face, live telephone-based – or even web-only – interactions.
 
With the ecosystem of connected health devices providing relevant data, physicians will be better armed with information about patient compliance, therapeutic response and interactions with caregivers and family. mHealth will help improve the quality of the time devoted to patient interaction as data and information gathering becomes automated, allowing physicians to discuss therapy and treatment options and advising or coaching the patient. In the new era of mHealth, patients will have more meaningful relationships with their healthcare teams and will experience higher quality health services overall.

Q.  Are there any roadblocks or concerns on the horizon regarding mHealth that healthcare executives should prepare for?

The biggest roadblock today is institutional inaction. The healthcare system is slow to change. Early adopters have found ways to compliment their existing operations and business models with the same mobile technologies that airlines, telecommunications and entertainment companies use, making consumers' lives easier while lowering enterprise costs. There are FDA, privacy and security issues to take into account, but these have relatively well-known solution pathways.
 
Other obstacles include technical difficulties. How do I get my health device on to the net? And how do I make it work across geographical regions and countries? How do I deal with privacy and security concerns of different jurisdictions? How do I aggregate together data from one device with data from other devices?
 
Fortunately, answers to these questions and many more are coming from Qualcomm Life. Qualcomm Life recently launched its 2net Hub and 2net Platform, a novel, end-to-end, technology-agnostic, cloud-based service designed to interconnect customers' medical devices so that information is easily accessible by device users and their healthcare providers and caregivers. With two-way connection capabilities and a broad spectrum of connection options, the 2net Platform will likely change the way the health industry conducts business.

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