Non­tra­di­tional firms muscling their way into health­care mar­ket

Com­pa­nies out­side of health­care are pur­su­ing in­no­va­tive ways to en­ter the mar­ket

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page -

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.

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