Topol leaves West to focus on Scripps Digital Medicine

By: Neil Versel | Oct 19, 2012        

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Dr. Eric TopolAfter leading the Scripps Translational Science Institute to a $3.75 million Qualcomm Foundation research grant, Dr. Eric Topol has cut ties with the West Health Institute, an organization he co-founded and served as vice chairman of.

Topol confirmed to MobiHealthNews that he left West at the end of September after his three-year term on the board expired. But he also said that the institute’s shift away from exclusive focus on mobile and wireless technology—highlighted by West’s decision in August to drop “wireless” from its name—was a factor.

Speaking to MobiHealthNews Thursday after he keynoted the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) conference in Indian Wells, Calif., Topol said the West Health Institute wasn’t really interested in the specific research project he is spearheading, so he decided to do the work at Scripps.

“I’m still cheering for the West,” Topol said. “But I need to put my energy into the new program called Scripps Digital Medicine.” That is the name of the Scripps Translational Science Institute collaboration with the Qualcomm Foundation, he explained.

The $3.75 million will fund three years worth of clinical trials on wireless biosensor systems, rapid pharmacogenomic diagnostic tests and mobile apps and embedded sensors for tracking and predicting heart attacks, Type 1 diabetes and some types of cancer.

At CHIME, Topol continued to be bullish on mobile health, even as West broadens its scope to support all kinds of ideas that will help lower the cost of healthcare. “There isn’t a condition that mHealth will not help reduce the cost of,” the Scripps cardiologist said. Topol also talked about “this mHealth world we live in” as being part of what he sees as the greatest shake-up in the history of medicine.

On stage, Topol did his familiar demonstration of wireless gadgets, including the GE Vscan pocket ultrasound, the AliveCor iPhone ECG and a premarket Sotera Wireless ViSi monitor that showed several vital signs on his phone. “The smartphone is an incredibly powerful mini-computer, as you know,” he told the audience of hospital CIOs.

Topol then predicted that people soon will be checking their health as often as their email. “If that doesn’t engender cyberchondria, I don’t know what will,” he joked. He also said that health devices may spark a comeback of the humble wristwatch.