Bosch turns to GreatCall for move to US mobile phones

By: Jonah Comstock | Feb 20, 2013        

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JitterbugTouchFrontGlobal telehealth vendor Robert Bosch Healthcare Systems announced a partnership with GreatCall, which offers mobile health and personal safety technology for seniors. The goal of the partnership is to “develop and market an innovative line of mobile telehealth and mHealth solutions,” according to a release from the companies.

“The partnership combines Bosch’s evidence-based telehealth solutions, which provide patients with valuable disease/condition knowledge and reinforcement to improve their self-management skills, with GreatCall’s expertise in developing wireless health and safety solutions for older consumers and their families,” the release reads.

This is an interesting move by Bosch, since last year they partnered with GreatCall’s main competitor, Doro, in Europe. At the time, MobiHealthNews noted that it seemed to signal a move for Bosch from providing telehealth care in the home only, to providing remote care and monitoring wherever patients are. Bosch President Dr. Jasper zu Putlitz confirmed in a statement that that sentiment extends to US operations as well.

“Today, many older persons are active and are looking for a telehealth solution that travels,” he said. “In partnering with GreatCall, we will be able to leverage GreatCall’s expertise in mobile technology and Bosch’s evidence-based telehealth approach in order to offer our customers mobile telehealth solutions.”

In addition to making feature phones and smartphones designed to be easy to use, GreatCall also offers a range of health apps, which can be run on GreatCall’s Android-based Jitterbug Touch or on any other Apple or Android smartphone. The company launched its Urgent Care App, which provides anytime access to doctors and nurses at $3.99 per call, in January. Back in 2011, they launched a cellular-enabled personal emergency response device and service called 5Star Urgent Response, which the company sells at Walmart and other retail locations.

Bosch’s flagship product is Health Buddy, a home remote monitoring and patient engagement suite for patients living with chronic conditions. The company sued several other remote monitoring companies last year, arguing they infringed on its Health Buddy patents. Health Buddy expressed a willingness to partner with or license its patents rather than litigate, an offer that Waldo Health seems to have agreed to. Of the other two companies Bosch sued, MedApps was acquired in the meantime by Alere, whose previous agreements with Bosch may have ended the suit. The third suit, against ExpressMD, is still pending.

GreatCall declined to comment on the partnership beyond the release, so the details of the collaboration remain to be seen. Given GreatCall’s somewhat recent entry into apps, one possibility is an app version of Health Buddy’s software. But when it comes to emergency calls, integration between the two companies is a murky path. Unlike Doro, whose emergency call capabilities were geographically limited prior to their partnership with Bosch, GreatCall’s 5Star system already connects to a nationwide call center. If this is a way to get Health Buddy onto mobile phones in the US, as seems likely, the logistics will be complicated.

Whatever their first offering turns out to be, the companies anticipate it will be available some time in 2013.