WebMD, Qualcomm build consumer cloud for mobile health data

WebMD is also building a physician, patient web portal

WebMD and Qualcomm have partnered to offer consumers a way to upload biometric data from wireless home medical devices. That data can then be shared with healthcare providers.

WebMD's new Health Cloud platform is due out this fall and will be based on Qualcomm's 2net platform, a cloud-based system designed to be interoperable with different wireless medical devices and applications, allowing medical device users and their healthcare providers to access biometric data online.

While the 2net platform existed prior to the collaboration, WebMD brings with it 117 million unique visitors who log onto its site each month, according to WebMD CTO Bill Pence.

"Our mobile health webpage alone gets 22 million page views a month," Pence said. "But information is just the beginning of the journey. With our brand and audience, we're well positioned to help consumers take the next step ... and connect into the medical ecosystem and eventually have connectivity services with the physician."

Consumers are now managing their health across multiple screens and biometric devices with a limited ability to integrate their data. The WebMD and Qualcomm Life collaboration will help sync the data collected and help people play a bigger role in their health, WebMD and Qualcomm said in a statement.

In addition to its large consumer health information website, WebMD has made a strong push into consumer healthcare applications and to date has seen more than 17 million downloads.

Along with the consumer offerings, WebMD also has websites for healthcare professionals, the flagship being Medscape.

"We believe users will start to self report through Web tools...," Pence said. "Biometric sensors are also proliferating and they are powerful, but we don't yet have a mass market. Most consumers don't understand these sensors outside of the fitness space. They don't understand these devices are there and can have a meaningful impact on their health."

As WebMD's audience accesses its healthcare information via desktop and mobile platforms, the publication can target readers with additional data based on the medical information they're looking up.

Those accessing healthcare information using WebMD's mobile app will be asked if they are aware of biometric sensors that could help them better manage chronic illnesses or other healthcare issues. WebMD can also offer up medical literature on how mobile biometric monitoring devices work.

"We're not going to create a new app and have to create a new audience. We're simply going to embed the mHealth features into our mobile app, which already has millions of people on it," Pence said.

"Whether you're looking at diabetes content, general weight management, pain management, sleep apnea or whatever your issue is, we'll present you in-context information and education about the devices available," Pence said.

WebMD's Health Cloud platform will also allow users to purchase mobile health monitoring devices directly through the mobile app. "We're not going to put hundreds of devices in there. We're going to put a highly curated set of the best devices," Pence said.

Qualcomm's 2net Platform will act as the content aggregation site for all the data, which otherwise would require WebMD to build different relationships with each device manufacture, build different data extraction protocols for those devices, test them and then get FDA certification.

"So, we're the front-end brand. We'll select from, say, those 250 partners their best-of-breed devices and bundle them by condition [such as diabetes or high blood pressure]," Pence said.

Where the mobile app "gets really interesting," Pence said, is going from flat content entered by users to automated data feeds from those mobile devices. Those data feeds could then be fed directly to electronic health records (EHRs), where physicians could set up alerts tied specific health conditions.

WebMD is preparing to roll out its first patient-to-physician connectivity app this year. It's currently working out security, workflow and app connectivity issues, Pence said.

"We won't start with biometric data, but with intake forms, patient education, prescription refills, a lot of productivity transactions that we can web enable," Pence said. "We'll also be working on the ability for physicians to prescribe apps and embed them. And some of those will have the ability to collect biometric data."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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This story, "WebMD, Qualcomm build consumer cloud for mobile health data" was originally published by Computerworld.

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