Sprint, BL Healthcare Collaborate on 3G Remote Health Monitoring

Sprint will provide 3G wireless connectivity for BL Healthcare's telemedicine platform, enabling patients to send doctors their vital signs from afar.

Sprint has formed a partnership with remote-health-management provider BL Healthcare to power 3G connectivity for its telemedicine platform.

The collaboration with Sprint announced on Feb. 16 will bring a new standard for health care management with improved quality and lower costs, according to Michael Mathur, president and CEO of BL Healthcare.

"We believe Sprint's unique combination of network assets and open architecture provide key components in the development of the next generation of remote health care-related services," Mathur said in a statement.

Using BL Healthcare telemedicine services, which are FDA approved and HIPAA compliant, patients can send vital medical data remotely to doctors while at work, at home, in a hospital or assisted living facility-and even in pharmacies or retail stores.

Over Sprint's network, patients can send readings on blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, Tim Donahue, Sprint's vice president of industry solutions, told eWEEK. Doctors can monitor readings for signs of chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

The populations using remote monitoring platforms such as BL Healthcare's are often low income and lack a primary phone line, noted Gary Rurup, strategic opportunity manager for Sprint's Emerging Solutions group.

"Having that wireless component does open doors to populations with a growing need," Rurup told eWEEK.

A remote-monitoring setup can also help patients avoid rehospitalization, Rurup explained.

"On rehospitalization many insurance plans don't pay," Donahue said. "In many cases they don't need to go in. If they can do it remotely and send those vital status [updates], there's no need to inconvenience the patient and incur those costs of the hospital."

Checking blood pressure three times a day remotely rather than less frequently in person can prevent more serious complications, Donahue noted.

Rurup mentioned the possibility of a "white coat syndrome," in which a patient's blood pressure could even be higher from the anxiety of being in a doctor's office. He suggested that patients could produce more accurate readings through a remote monitoring device from the comfort of their home.

Data can be collected from medical devices immediately or over a period of time, like a week, Rurup said.

Use of BL Healthcare's telemedicine device is simple, Rurup explained. It involves pushing one button on the touch screen, and test results are then sent over Sprint's 3G network to a physician.

"If medicine needs to be dispensed, a message can be sent back to the patient on that same video screen," Rurup said.

Sprint, BL Healthcare and Lancaster General Health, a health care system in Lancaster, Pa., will showcase a 4G remote-monitoring kiosk at the HIMSS11 health care IT conference in Orlando, Fla., from Feb. 20-24.

"Wireless technologies, 3G and 4G in particular, have really established telemedicine systems as the future of health care," William Dunstan, vice president of home health services with Lancaster General Health, said in a statement.

BL Healthcare is a partner in Sprint's M2M (Machine to Machine) Collaboration Center. Launched in October, the Collaboration Center allows Sprint to test mobile phones and wireless service with other company's electronic devices, according to Sprint.

The remote-monitoring company has also collaborated with other major wireless carriers. At the January 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon Wireless and BL Healthcare demonstrated a 4G LTE Telemedicine Terminal, expanding on a partnership that began in April 2010. The terminal allows caregivers and patients to hold multipoint HD videoconferencing.