Seems 2G is enough for telehealth hubs

By: Brian Dolan | May 1, 2009        

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Tunstall Tunstall’s RTX3371 Wireless Telehealth Monitor follows the trend of many of the telemedicine solutions we saw on display at the American Telemedicine Association event earlier this week: 2G radios. If a device is simply transmitting biometric data into the cloud en route to online portals for physicians and other caregivers, who needs high-speed 3G networks? Most telemedicine companies seem to agree.

Tunstall’s monitoring hub, which runs over GPRS data networks, wirelessly connects to compatible peripheral medical devices like Bluetooth weight scales and blood pressure monitors and then transmits the data to caregivers over the cellular network. The FDA just greenlit the device so Tunstall can now market in the U.S. Interestingly, the hub is also outfitted with voice technology so doctors can call patients via the hub to do a quick check-up over the phone. 

The JKOnTheRun blog just posted an article about Tunstall’s telehealth hub and ended with the quip, “Sounds good for the patient, but I suspect this type of technology is only going to give my doctor more time to golf.”

Funny, because most doctors familiar with these solutions worry they’ll have no time for anything once patient data comes streaming in from their increasingly connected patients.

  • David Doherty

    Hi Brian,

    Just wanted to add a few additions to your post to clarify the points you’re making as there is terminology being used that a lot of people get confused about.

    (Boring) bit of Terminology First:

    The transfer of data from this device is NOT taking place over 2G. It is taking place using a GPRS connection which is more commonly known as 2.5G – the “stepping stone” between 2G and 3G technologies. GPRS provides some of the benefits of 3G because it is packet-switched and some types (eg. EDGE) can actually qualify as 3G services (by virtue of their ability to deliver peak data rates exceeding 144 kbit/s)

    3G is replacing 2G for a number of reasons:

    a) it has more bandwidth… ever tried to make a call on New Years Eve? if so you’ll have experienced the issues with cell coverage being maxed out. As the population of connected non-phone devices (eg. Amazon Kindles, PND’s or patient health monitoring devices) increases the reliability of networks that are designed primarily for voice will become more obvious.
    b) 3G devices are backward compatible and so can always default to 2.5G for data transfer in the event of a lack of 3G network coverage
    c) 2G networks are becoming redundant as network operators move to 3G – operators have stopped selling 2G Mobiles, are turning off their 2G networks and reusing that part of the spectrum to provide 3G
    c) Data transmission on a 3G network has a much lower CAPEX for mobile operators

    Some reasons why the future of Connected Health will be based on 3G and not 2G

    Tunstall and other equipment providers are not yet connecting PATIENTS. All they are connecting is EQUIPMENT and as we see the mHealth market grow it will become very obvious that these individuals will have very different data, processing, media, community and communication needs than a simple piece of equipment will ever have.

    Not only are lots of these devices intended to be used in static positions but most aren’t designed to be upgraded or customized in the market. The opportunity for innovation that is created by the arrival of programmable devices is in it’s infancy but evidence for it’s emergence can be seen by the rapid growth of useful mHealth applications as a result of mobile device manufacturers offering open developer platforms and discovery tools such as Nokia’s Ovi and Apple’s App Store etc.

  • Burt

    Hommed seems to have the upper hand from a cost standpoint relative to data transmission. The market deals with poor people as the principle user of these devices. The is no reimbursement from the sugar daddy in Washington. Who is going to pay for the cost of transmitting the data? It seems that POTS is the only affordable solution. Once the data is received it can be shipped off via the Internet for free. But the home to the provider leg is an issue.

    Also there is a very comprehensive patent portfolio owned by a company in Fl involving the transmission of any medical data using Bluetooth. You should look into to this before you establish a large installed based so you can add this potential expense in to the COGS and set it aside for the eventual settlement. I would imagine they will prevail given that Medtronic now pays a royalty.

    I hope you get the business model right. The fat cats in telehealth now in the market missed the boat,can’t change their model and as a result are basically shipping future liabilities rather than assets.

  • Burt

    They caught on…look out Hommed here they come:

    Intel adds wireless to Health Guide
    Thursday – July 16th, 2009 – 10:40am EST by Brian Dolan | Health Guide | Intel | ProActive Healthcare | Providence Life Services | Spectrum Medical | tablet |

    Intel Health GuideIntel has added cellular wireless and residential phone service connectivity to its Intel Health Guide, which is Intel’s remote patient monitoring offering. Up until now the system only supported connectivity through cable/DSL broadband. Intel now counts Providence Life Services, Spectrum Medical, and ProActive Healthcare among its clients for the Health Guide.

    According to the company, the Health Guide enables health care providers to gather information from patients in a customized and timely way. The touch screen device has been available since last year, and is Intel’s first regulated medical device offering. The device’s capabilities include video conferencing as well as vital signs collection.

    The new connectivity options include 3G wireless connectivity where it is available, but for those without broadband in the home who would prefer to use their landline phone, Intel now offers “a simple and inexpensive” modem adaptor that would allow them to send vital sign data to their clinicians. So, no video conferencing for those who go that route.

    Providence Life Services, which offers retirement living and senior care services, uses Health Guide to monitor patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital after suffering from heart failure (CHF).

    Spectrum Medical and ProActive Medical are using Health Guides to help their patients manage CHF, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, hypertension and diabetes.