April 15, 2014

While Apple and Google have garnered a lot of attention in the digital health space these past few weeks, another technology stalwart just stepped into the fray, albeit taking a more enterprise-related tack.

BlackBerry Limited, in fact, bought a stake in cloud-based medical IT provider NantHealth, and the companies said they intend to “collaborate on the development of HIPAA and other government privacy certified, integrated clinical systems.”

In addition to its once-high-flying handheld, BlackBerry also sells the QNX operating system that is embedded into medical devices, and this summer the company plans to launch BBM Protected, a secure encrypted messaging service. NantHealth, meanwhile, claims its Clinical Operating System (cOS) for delivering clinical intelligence at the point of care is installed in approximately 250 hospitals, connecting some 16,000 medical devices and collecting 3 billion vital signs per year.

NantHealth founder Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, considered to be the wealthiest healthcare entrepreneur, is credited with coining the term “medical bridges to nowhere” in speaking of how the federal meaningful use incentive program has steered electronic health records thus far into silos essentially incapable of communicating with each other.

“We need to create an integrated system that follows a human being through the continuum of life,” he toldmHealth News in an interview prior to Tuesday’s announcement, adding that NantHealth is “trying to create is a true operating system” that would encompass clinical decision support, machine learning and “adaptive amplified intelligence” that “integrates pieces of the puzzle” and “gives you inputs … so that you can manage outputs.”

The BlackBerry technology might play a key role in that overarching effort.

“NantHealth and BlackBerry can combine secure cloud-based and supercomputing services to provide data integration, decision support and analytics,” Blackberry CEO John Chen and Soon-Shiong said in a prepared statement.

The new partnership is not the first to meld supercomputing with mobile devices in an effort to arm clinicians with what might considered Big Data and analytics geared toward clinical decision support.

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, some doctors are already using iPads loaded with the Oncology Expert Advisor application, which syncs into an IBM Watson machine on the back end to essentially glean unique treatment profiles out of the individual’s own and family history, standards of care and current clinical trials.

“The future of the healthcare industry requires the ability to share information securely and quickly, whether device-to-device or doctor-to-doctor anywhere and at any time,” Soon-Shiong said. “Providing actionable information at the time of need will significantly improve the efficiency of healthcare and, more importantly, the efficacy of care for the patient.”

The companies did not state the amount of BlackBerry’s investment or terms of the deal.

Related articles: 

Buyers’ guide to mobile ICD-10 apps

Pros and cons of Kaiser’s ambitious telehealth efforts

3 trends shaping telehealth


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