A mobile health industry grows in San Diego

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In one of this week's top stories, mHealth Initiative founder Peter Waegemann talks about the need for "an m-health community." He was talking about a community in the virtual sense, not in the geographic sense, but there is one locale that's positioning itself as a leader in mobile healthcare: San Diego.

While FierceMobileHealthcare took a publishing holiday last week, I was busy having some interesting conversations with various movers and shakers in mobile healthcare and in health IT in general. Boston-based Waegemann was one such individual. There are some others that I'll talk about in FierceHealthIT and FierceEMR over the next couple of weeks.

I also heard from Paul Sonnier, co-chair of the Healthcare Communications Special Interest Group at CommNexus San Diego, a local network of telecommunications companies. Sonnier started a wireless health group on networking site LinkedIn that originally was intended for just those in the San Diego area. But he's since taken the geographic notation off the group's title, and now invites others to join.

Of all the people I talked to last week, though, I was particularly excited to hear from Don Jones, VP for business development in the Health & Life Sciences division of mobile technology giant Qualcomm, which just happens to be based in San Diego.

Jones also is a founding board member and chief wireless officer of the West Wireless Health Institute, and is a founder and board member of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance. Both organizations are located in nearby La Jolla, Calif. (I'm hoping to have more on West Wireless in the coming weeks.)

Jones happened to contact me about what's become a series of articles on the subject of EKG transmissions from ambulances. At first, there was some criticism that Brevard County, Fla., equipping its EMTs with Bluetooth-enabled EKGs was a non-story because some departments have been sending EKG readings from ambulance to hospitals since the 1970s. But those were single-lead machines.

The current technology is 12-lead EKG. "What's newsworthy is that others aren't doing it," Jones said. The issue now is who pays for the technology. Cardiac catheterization labs are hugely profitable, and hospitals stand to lose significant revenue if 12-lead EKGs in the field rule out potential cath patients before the ambulance arrives. "It's a problem of misaligned incentives and good intentions."

Wow, that sounds just like a major problem hindering the health sector, in general. Here's guessing some good solutions come out of the southwestern-most county in the continental U.S. Now if only I could escape this frigid Chicago winter weather for a few days. - Neil