June 2012

Mobile Healthcare for the Consumer

The device includes a stethoscope cut in half and microphones. Researchers say it measures blood pressure with 95 to 98 percent accuracy.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the convergence of mobile devices and consumer healthcare. I believe there are three changes happening that are creating a perfect storm for a new wave of mobile medical devices.

1. Standardized Mobile Operating Systems (OS)
Before android or iOS came along, engineers that wanted to build a mobile medical device had to develop the software and the hardware. There were no standard, mobile operating systems in place that made software development scalable for medical devices. Sure there was MS Windows, Linux and other OS in existence, but none of these worked really well for small, mobile hardware. Engineers were required to use Programable Micro Controllers (PICs) and related devices. With the advent of android and iOS, it is now possible to write software without having to worry about the underlying supporting architecture and hardware.

2. Wireless Connectivity
The healthcare industry is inundated with expenses and impossible budgets. This is largely due to high volumes of patient visits and patient readmissions. Many of these visits are for simple physician checkups in order to conduct things like blood pressure measurement or EKG measurement. The information obtained from these frequent tasks are required to make the physician smarter about the patient so that they can implement the right treatment. The combinations of measurement devices and smartphones would allow these simple tasks to be done in the home and relayed back to the physician wirelessly.

3. Consumer Adoption
According to Gartner, total smart phone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010.” It’s no secret that people everywhere are using smart phone devices. If they aren’t, they will be very soon as it’s only a matter of time. Since consumers already have possession of these mobile devices, they are already in a position to buy a third-party accessory. Just like you might buy an iPhone case or a portable speaker, owners of smart phones could just as easily buy blood pressure measurement units or other medical plug-ins. Furthermore, the costs of a mobile medical device would be significantly lower because the consumer already effectively paid for half of the device – the phone.

So I think this market will emerge, but I’m not sure how long it will take. To understand that, there are two big question marks in my mind that need to addressed. The first is whether or not consumers care enough about their health in order to make them proactively engaged with one of these devices. I do think this could be overcome with things like game mechanics. The second is whether or not there will be a favorable environment with regards to governmental regulations, although I do think we are heading in the right direction. The HITECH Act, part of the 2009 stimulus bill, states that doctors are eligible for $44,000 in subsidies if they deploy “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) – keyword there being “electronic.” So it’s clear that we are moving in the right direction. It’s just a matter of how long it will take before we get there. I don’t know when our phones will be our personal doctors, but I do know it will happen.

Surfing Big Waves and Big Markets

English: Mavericks Surf Contest 2010. Français...

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

“You don’t need to paddle as hard for the bigger waves”

That’s what Kaoki, my surfing instructor, told me during my first surf lesson on the shores of Maui two weeks ago. It was as if he was some executive coach because everything he said to me made complete sense from a business perspective. In the back of my mind I was still trying to digest the Facebook IPO and how a small company realized over $100B in value in just a few short years. So when he started talking about the “waves,” some things he said became immediately clear.

“You don’t need to paddle as hard for the bigger waves.” The pre start-up days of a start-up company are among the most exciting and also, the most terrifying. This is the moment when entrepreneurs decide what they are going to build and what market they are going to be in. Often times this can be very paralyzing to an entrepreneur because their choices are unlimited, so the fear sets in when they start asking, “but what if I choose the wrong idea?” So as an entrepreneur, the real question you should be asking is “what if I choose the wrong wave?” Start by looking at very large markets or quickly emerging markets. You will have more room for error while also having more upside potential. Another friend of mine said, “it takes the same amount of work to build a successful company in a big market as it does in a small market.” He’s spot on. Start with a bigger market. Start with a bigger wave.

“Surfing is 90% paddling and 10% surfing.” In order to actually stand up on a wave, you need to paddle and you need to do so in a way that gives you a chance to surf. In any startup, this is what matters most. Putting in the time, work, dedication and focus beforehand so you can enjoy that sweet fundraising event or successful exit later on. Without the right type of paddling and focus, you’ll never be able to enjoy a wave.

“Don’t just paddle, push the water.” Writing emails for the sake of writing emails is rather meaningless. This concept applies to just about everything you do at your job. When you are trying to get something done, do it with reason. If you don’t have one, ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place. If you aren’t “pushing water” you may never get up on a wave and you’ll just be some person sitting in the middle of the ocean, or industry, bobbing up and down on a fancy looking boogie board.

“Be patient. The good waves will come.” If you are patient, committed, and hardworking, you will eventually find yourself starring at a great opportunity. The question is, will you be prepared? Will you “push the water” and put in the work so that you can stand up on the board and ride it out?

I hope so.

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich.

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