Nontraditional firms muscling their way into healthcare market
Companies outside of healthcare are pursuing innovative ways to enter the market
Ford Motor Co. and Medtronic announced a research partnership this year that will link the automotive company’s in-car communications and entertainment system with glucose monitoring devices manufactured by Medtronic.
Ford says its Sync system will use Bluetooth technology to connect with glucose monitoring devices used by a driver or a passenger in the car.
Count the automaker among the growing number of companies in industries, which include technology, telecommunications, retail and consumer goods, that are investing in or partnering with traditional pharmaceutical and device manufacturers on medical products, many of which are used to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes.
K. Venkatesh Prasad, group and senior technical leader for vehicle design and infotronics for Ford Research and Innovation, says the platform will likely provide audio or center stack display alerts if a driver or a child becomes hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia can cause confusion, blurry vision and lightheadedness.
“We’re exploring the benefit to the consumer, the experience, why this means something to the consumer, and how it can have a considerable impact,” Prasad says, discussing the Ford-Medtronic partnership. “Neither one of us can deliver this on our own.”
It’s the first time the Dearborn, Mich.-based automotive company has announced plans to pursue product-development in the healthcare sector, Prasad says.
Along with the Medtronic collaboration, Ford said in May that it has established partnerships with WellDoc to offer the healthcare technology company’s diabetes and asthma management services in its cars, as well as with SDI Health, which has developed a mobile allergy alert application that can be linked to Ford’s Sync system.
WellDoc’s DiabetesManager application, which gathers blood glucose data and provides behavioral patient coaching and provider decision support, received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in August 2010 to market to healthcare providers and their adult patients with Type 2 diabetes.
As healthcare delivery continues to evolve, more companies are hoping to tap new opportunities for their products and services.
“We’re going to have more and more of a patient-centered healthcare system in the future, and that will be potentially accelerated by policy and regulatory healthcare reform,” says Gerry McDougall, head of the personalized medicine and health sciences practices at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We’re seeing very large companies move into that space in pretty aggressive fashion. I think you’ll continue to see that.”
McDougall describes these players now getting involved in healthcare, either through acquisitions, partnerships and affiliations, as new-entrant companies.
A PwC report published in May found that 24% of Fortune 50 companies are considered traditional healthcare companies while more than half (52%) of the Fortune 50 companies are “entering the healthcare market in nontraditional ways.”
This month, WellPoint, the large Indianapolis-based health insurer, said it would use IBM’s Watson technology to support physicians and nurses with diagnosis and treatment options for patients.
The same day, AT&T announced a $100,000 investment into a pilot program in Dallas that will set up mobile disease management training between Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes and educators staffed by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. The telecommunications giant in November launched AT&T
Ford is already offering an allergy-alert system that uses a smartphone application developed by SDI Health. It links to the automaker’s Sync in-car communications system.