Author(s): Peter Bryer
Healthcare and well-being are still very distinct: the former is a much-regulated industry of high precision, while the latter is an area of casual use and trial and error. The growing number of wearable trackers and sensor-centric apps making headlines might lead consumers to think that the lines are blurring, but the real heavy diagnostic lifting is still the healthcare industry's sole responsibility. However, the end-user expertise and wide reach of consumer electronics firms offer valuable synergies between MD and CE.
On Friday, Medtronics and Samsung announced a partnership to develop connected medical devices and services for diabetics. The initial emphasis will be on creating Android apps to support Medtronic's FDA-approved MiniMed Connect diabetes products.
Samsung's position as the global smartphone leader and the number-one manufacturer of Android devices makes the South Korean company a useful partner for Medtronic. Cooperating with mobile manufacturers allows Medtronic to make the most of the connectivity and social acceptance of portable devices. Smartphones, tablets and smartwatches are becoming front-facing displays for the medical industry, providing users with convenient access to alarms, reminders and historic data.
This partnership certainly isn't unprecedented for the industry, or for Medtronic. The company already offers iOS apps, and has entered into partnership with IBM for cloud-based analytics and the personalized management of diabetes. IBM recently formed its Watson Health business, aiming to centralise the company's healthcare-related activities.
Mobile health is an intersection between medical devices, cloud computing, big data and machine-to-machine capabilities, and the usability expertise of consumer electronics companies provide them with an increasingly important role in the healthcare value chain. The sector offers significant long-term opportunities at a time when devices otherwise look and act alike.
Apple has already taken a thought leadership position in this respect. Many healthcare-related apps appear on iOS first, and Apple has introduced ResearchKit — a framework that enables companies to capture crowd-sourced data for medical research. To be successful, Samsung and other mobile players will need high-profile partnerships and ongoing relationships. Mobile and medicine are two different businesses, each with their own regulations and standards. More cross-industry collaboration is coming.