Monday, March 24, 2014

Say Wello to My Little Friend

Say Wello to My Little Friend.  Forgive me for the lame title.  I could not resist spinning Tony Montana's famous line as I drafted this commentary about Wello, another new product that aims to be a little friend to American healthcare consumers by melding medical diagnostic and smartphone technologies.

Developed by Azoi, Inc,. Wello is conceptually very similar to the Scanadu Scout in that it is designed to measure and track your key vital signs - temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, heart rate variability and an electrocardiogram reading - in conjunction with a smartphone platform.  Whereas the Scout's sensors are incorporated into a stand-alone, pocket-sized device, Wello's sensors come in a phone case for your iPhone.  By holding your Wello enabled iPhone for a few seconds as instructed, Wello will capture your vital sign data and then record, display and store the data through a mobile app. Wello is compatible with Anroid smartphones, but initially only as a stand-alone unit and not as a phone case. 

Like the Scandu Scout, Wello is seeking Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and cannot be shipped in the U.S. until such approval is granted.  It can, however, be pre-ordered, then shipped once FDA approval is received.  Getting FDA approval will be an important step in affirming the quality of Wello's vital sign measurement accuracy and its potential usefulness as a source of clinically reliable information.  From what we can tell, assuming no bumps for Wello in the FDA approval process, it will probably be sometime next year before the product is ready for use by the general U.S. healthcare consumer. 

While there can be no assurances about Wello's specific impact on healthcare delivery, much less its success at getting FDA approval, Wello nevertheless is another example of an innovative health delivery solution from companies that are integrating diagnostic and increasingly powerful smartphone technologies.  These innovative companies, some of whom are also integrating web technologies into their solutions, have been and will continue to bring forth products and services that are changing healthcare delivery. It is a fact that for many years now we have already seen significant advances in telemedicine, where the successful integration of testing and monitoring technologies with telecommunication platforms have made possible remote healthcare delivery that was difficult to imagine just twenty years ago.  While "traditional" telemedicine platforms have been provider oriented, some of today's telemedicine innovators are looking to expand the scope of remote healthcare delivery.  These new breed innovators, like those behind Scout and Wello, want to provide solutions that empower consumers more in the remote healthcare delivery process.

The internet and mobile technologies have significantly advanced the ability of consumers to access information about almost every kind of medical condition or treatment over the past fifteen years.  More recently, these same technologies have made it possible for consumers to seek out and receive treatment, even prescriptions, for minor health conditions from board certified Online Doctors.  And sooner than some might imagine, we expect consumers to have access to a wide range of mobile and web enabled solutions that will provide clinically relevant data to physicians and other members of the consumer's healthcare delivery team.

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