e-CareManagement blog

Chronic Disease Management • Technology • Strategy • Issues and Trends

Adieu, LifeCOMM

“Qualcomm pulls the plug on LifeComm”  announced Brian Dolan of mobihealthnews recently. 

As demonstrated by e-CareManagement blog readership, there has been a lot of interest in LifeCOMM.  My first blog post on LifeCOMM in 2007 has been single the most commented on post and the second most widely read blog post.

It’s taken me a while to sift through my thoughts and feelings about saying “Goodbye” to LifeCOMM. At first I was deeply disappointed, but after further reflection think that LifeCOMM wasn’t the right type of platform for today’s consumer mobile health market.

Disappointment

My first reaction was one of disappointment.

Clearly the consumer mobile health community needs a broadbased platform that will provide common infrastructure and interoperability among applications. 

Don Jones, VP of Business Development at QualComm, has been an evangelist for LifeCOMM and for the entire mobile health community. He inspired us to to believe and await the day that LifeCOMM was open for business.

Probably a Good Thing

LifeCOMM being shuttered is not a reflection on the potential of the consumer mobile healthcare market — it’s a reflection of a telecomm business business model that looked good when conceived but didn’t stand the test of time.

The LifeCOMM business model would have struggled:

MVNO.  When LifeCOMM was conceived in 2005, the MVNO telecomm business model was hot.  Today it’s gone cold. (Read here if you’re not familiar with the MVNO business model).

Walled Garden. The common message being sent by the emergence of Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault, and the HITECH Act legislation is that health care MUST move toward open platforms, not walled gardens like LifeCOMM.  Interoperable and open is in; non-interoperable and proprietary is out.

Today, Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are probably much more appropriate platforms upon which to build consumer mobile healthcare applications  (…hint, hint).

What health care needs now is interoperable platforms and applications that create network effects for this nascent market. LifeCOMM — offered only by Verizon — could have had the effect of further fragmenting this highly promising but very early market.

Hardware Focus.  It’s highly questionable whether people would have ditched their existing mobile/wireless devices for a special purpose health phone.

Readers, what do you think?

Additional Reading

Qualcomm pulls the plug on LifeComm
mobihealthnews; July 15, 2009

Was the MVNO model a death sentence for LifeComm?
Fierce Wireless; July 17, 2009

Qualcomm Shutters Healthcare Project
cellular-news; July 16, 2009

Mobility Amps Up Healthcare Efficiency
Wireless Design & Development Asia; July 1, 2009

Qualcomm, Unable to Raise Capital, May Be Terminating LifeComm
Xconomy San Diego; July 16, 2009

LifeCOMM
Qualcomm website, accessed July 26, 2009

LifeComm could be in death throes
SignOnSanDiego.com; July 17, 2009

 

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Discussion

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Comments

1.
On July 28th, 2009 at 11:25 am, Devon Devine, JD said:

If there is some alternative to carrying an additional piece of gadgetry around, most people will opt for the alternative. But if it replaces something they already have to carry, like a glucose meter, maybe it would work. They are doing amazing things with red LEDs these days, and could power an LED glucose meter off the phone’s battery. What better way to deploy context-sensitive information?

Context-sensitivity makes all the difference in the world when dealing with technical terms. As HL7 points out, “cervical”, means something much different coming from an OB/GYN than from a chiropractor. If a GPS-enabled mobile device knows where the individual lives, whether he takes the elevator or stairs, and what restaurants he visits, it can provide much more helpful information to the individual. When my iPhone asks me if it is okay to “use current location” to narrow searches, it is already a step in this direction.

Privacy questions abound. For starters, take the fact that 1 in 3 Americans in some is obese in some populations, and that obesity is an even greater health risk than smoking. For obese persons, then, the government could impose a higher sales tax on fatty foods. This is likely an unacceptable form of discrimination, but it is technologically possible, using the same methods that insurance carriers use for realtime repricing of medical services today. Call it realtime repricing of health incentives. Clearly there would have to be some overall financial incentive, such as funds parked in a health savings account, to incent an individual to agree to such a program. Can existing cafeteria plan (IRC Sec 125) regulations be modified or interpreted to permit this?