Qualcomm Life Execs Reflect on EU and US Healthcare Systems

November 21, 2012 – 11:01 am

Qualcomm Life (San Diego, USA) recently launched 2net in Europe, a CE-certified platform to support medical device connectivity and data management. In a recent interview, we asked Rick Valencia, founder and general manager of Qualcomm Life and Anthony Shimkin, the company’s senior director of marketing to compare the dynamics of doing business in Europe versus the United States.

Rick Valencia

For one thing, doing business in Europe means that the company’s customer base is different, Valencia says. “One of the complexities that we have in the U.S. is that there are just so many potential healthcare customers across the spectrum,” he explains. “Our customers could include device manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies, and disease management providers. They are just across the board,” he adds. “In Europe, our customers will probably be a little bit more focused and probably be, in some cases, the governments themselves.”

Qualcomm Life is looking to win business through its EU partners, which are often bidding on contracts through government vendors. That kind of model is rare in the United States. “We don’t see a lot of that kind of activity going on right now in the U.S.,” Valencia says. “In Europe, we are really just aligning ourselves to a different type of B2B customer.”

Anthony Shimkin

Similar problems, however, exist in both the EU and U.S. markets. For instance, both countries are facing mounting pressures to curb healthcare spending and address a dramatic increase in chronic conditions.

Shimkin observers that there is substantial regional variation in remote monitoring technology offerings in Europe. “There are definitely differences per country and even specifically in country per region,” he says. “I think one of the things that we saw opportunity around, not only with working with our partners, but in each of those individual countries, is that they had a significant level of experience with pilot programmes,” he adds. For instance, the Whole System Demonstrator programme in the UK is the largest pilot programme in the world for telehealth and telecare applications. “And when you look at some of the regions in Italy, there have actually been several pilots that were reimbursed by the government in the Veneto and Lombardi regions as well as Piedmont,” Shimkin says. “In both Germany and Denmark, there was reimbursement at a third-party insurance or payor level [for such programmes],” he says. “In a lot of ways, what we see in the European market, is that they may be further along with using some of these technologies and integrating them into their entire healthcare system.”

Observations on the Chronic Disease Monitoring Space

Valencia agrees that the European market is likely more mature in terms of chronic disease monitoring than the United States. “Because most of the [EU] countries have single-payer systems, when programmes are launched, they are government sponsored,” he says. “And they have been launched because the research has been done and it has been determined that they are going to reduce costs and provide better access to care and a better way of life, frankly, for people with chronic disease.” In Europe, the market for chronic-disease monitoring technology “feels a little bit more organized and structured” than in the United States, Valencia remarks. “It is sort of a top down approach.”

In the United States, the uptake of chronic disease monitoring technology has been driven to a greater extent by reimbursement policies. “And there has been a lack of clarity about where the U.S. is going [in terms of healthcare reform],” Valencia notes. There is, however, more clarity now that the Affordable Care Act has been ratified and the election is over, he says.

“The Affordable Care Act calls for getting people out of hospitals, managing care remotely, managing care across the continuum and not just when they show up in the hospital, and making sure [patients] don’t show back up in the hospital after they have been discharged,” Valencia says. “All of those things we think are going to come together to reinforce and accelerate the market [for chronic disease monitoring technology],” he adds. “At the end of the day, for the United States particularly, it all comes down to reimbursement and, when that code is cracked, that is when we will really see a big rush into this market. In the meantime, there is plenty of activity.”

Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon’s medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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