Covidien Executive: We Won’t Parachute Into the Wild West That is Pure mHealth

Posted in Mobile Health by Arundhati Parmar on June 4, 2014

Covidien has made a foray into the mhealth, wearables space with a recent acquisition, but it would be a mistake to assume that the company is veering away from its focus on hospital customers. 


With Covidien’s surprising and bold acquisition of Zephyr Technology, a wearable tech company with remote monitoring capabilities, the medtech company has emerged as a trendsetter. This is after all the first time that a medtech company has made a foray into the wearables space, which has a decidedly consumer angle. Other companies have dipped into mhealth - for instance Masimmo launched its smartphone enabled pulse oximeter back in 2012, but this is the first example of a marriage between medtech and wearable tech firms.

And yet, the remote patient monitoring and mhealth space is an overlapping one, and questions abound about which device and software solutions will have staying power in a field that has interest from both consumers and physicians. Already there is a report that shows that a third of U.S. consumers abandon their wearable devices a mere six months after purchase.

For hospitals and other provider institutions considering using or expanding remote patient monitoring technologies to manage their patients more efficiently, companies like Covidien might have a role to play.

Covidien’s Andrew Malcolmson, Director of Integrated Patient Intelligence, will be a panelist about the journey of remote patient monitoring at the MD&M East Conference & Expo next week in New York City, hosted by the publisher of MD+DI. In a recent interview, Malcolmson talked about how a mind boggling array of remote monitoring technologies, apps and devices are being developed and how hospitals lack the resources to be able to sort through them.

“To see the number, the range and the disparities in the caliber of these companies or individuals or people in their garages who are writing code for ‘healthcare’ is interesting to watch,” Malcolmson said. “The challenge is how do you separate the wheat from the chaff on this … and while it is awesome to see the ideas and creativity gravitating toward [RPM and mhealth], dealing with institutions as we do, the people are almost scared to dip their toes in this space because they don’t have the ability to sort this through. It’s extremely daunting.”

Medtech companies with their corporate development and due diligence teams, and more importantly their understanding of the hospital market are well-positioned to help in this regard.

“I do believe that medtech vendors can help, as many have strong relationships and insights into the needs of the medical community, and can help organize and aggregate the solutions that have potential to help," Malcolmson added.

Zephyr Technology, which Covidien recently acquired, is one of those remote monitoring and wearable technology firms that it believes can bring value to hospital customers.

Founded in 2003, Zephyr is one of the earliest companies that began making wearables to enable the so-called physical status monitoring. The company makes different products including the BioHarness chest straps and BioPatch skin patches able to track heart rate, breathing rate, and posture among other things that work with companion software. Products can be purchased online and through Amazon.

In the hospital setting, ZephyrLife paired with BioPatch device can allow real-time updates of a patient's heart rate, respiration rate, ECG and positional and activity information on a central monitoring station. When a patient moves from a hospital to a long-term care facility or skilled nursing facility and later the home, doctors can still be aware of the patient's health status through updates on a web-based portal as can the patient.

The company also has a market selling its device and technology solution to elite athletes. But talking with Malcolmson, it was clear where Covidien wants to focus on when it comes to using innovative RPM technologies.

"We are the primary generators of data within a hospital and so that’s where everything we focus on will extend from - the hospital customers first and extending their reach so they can engage, track and enhance the decision making associated with patient care further away from their center," he said. "We will extend from there rather than parachute into the wild west that is pure mhealth." 

[Photo Credit - user NickOnTheDraw]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI


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