Nov 9, 2012

Components of a Health Monitoring Ecosystem

What are the key components needed to build a comprehensive ecosystem around health monitoring applications?  Key characteristic of an ecosystem solution - based on a platform - is that you create an environment in which different consumers and providers of health monitoring services are finding each other and can collaborate in a seamless way.
Information and services are aggregated to offer more complete solutions to a bigger community of consumers than any individual offer could achieve.  That is where the value of platform based ecosystem solutions becomes clear.

In a traditional health care monitoring project, a company will identify a target group of patients for whom they want to monitor some health parameters.  They use an integrator to build a bespoke application around some sensors and provide some reporting capabilities.  Then, they start a search for Doctors and Patients willing to come on the platform.  Usually, it is all with a focus of getting insight into 1 particular disease area, often for 1 particular treatment, usually with one brand of sensors monitoring a limited number of signals.  Most Pharma companies will provide such solutions as free value adding services around their pill.  The solution is not generating revenue by itself, it is there to improve the selling proposition and differentiation for the pill.
In a health monitoring ecosystem on the other hand, a platform is the enabler for a company to become the intermediary between patients and those people and institutions who want to provide services to these patients or who want to get access to this health information.  Let's take a closer look at some of the key participants.

What kind of people might benefit from Health Monitoring Devices and applications?  Answer: Almost anyone.  E.g.

  • People during sports and wellness activities could use sensors and applications that monitor their key body signs (e.g. Heartbeat) combined with speed, distance & heights  duration and combine that with applications.  E.g. training plans, calories consumed, food advise, alarms.
  • People during daily life, at work, at home, in the car, during shopping etc...could benefit from similar measurements as above for daily calorie consumption, car accident alarm function, heart attack alert service, falling asleep while driving warnings, ...
  • Pregnant woman could use some baby monitoring devices, weight monitoring etc to follow up on the evolution of the pregnancy and to alert in case of abnormal measurements.
  • Babies could be monitored while sleeping, like breathing, heartbeat, movement and temperature to trigger alert services e.g. when temperature rises.
  • Patients may carry disease specific monitoring tools and elderly people could have motion sensors and cameras in the house and in their cars.  Focus may be on alarming services in case of falls, lack of movement, being lost with the car, fire etc.
All of the above type of devices and sensors already exists.  What is different in this concept is to link them all up in a single big database.  This will enable any sensor vendor to integrate their sensors with this platform and any application vendor to write applications that make use of these sensors.

People who connect to the platform, will benefit from various services:
  • Free services:  E.g. Physicians and Caregivers can on-line see charts with disease and health care related data for their patients or can be alerted in case of trends that need attention. This is how extra value is created for the patient and the HCPs when using this platform.
  • Payable services: E.g. Alarm center services for heart attacks, falls, accidents etc.
The platform itself is key to the integration of all devices through a smartphone, and moving all people's data in their health records in the cloud.  This intermediary platform can provide APIs to 3rd party developers who want to build on the platform.  
The platform can charge for some services: E.g. For being a distribution channel for the paid services.  But the platform can also sell anonymous data to Pharma/Biotech companies, research organizations, health insurance organizations, health care technology assessment organizations and other health care authorities.  Or they could generate and sell on-demand market research reports out of this huge database.  They can also sell access (e.g. through surveys) for companies who want to reach out to particular target groups.  E.g. Pharma companies reaching out to patients with chronic diseases.  Companies could also want to give special incentives to employees if they can improve their lifestyle, even without knowing the names of the individuals they are monitoring or giving incentives to.  Obviously, all payable services will have to pay a % of their revenue to the intermediary platform.
The concept is actually quite simple, so why has it not happened yet?