Cardiologist Eric Topol Outlines Goals for San Diego’s West Wireless Healthcare Institute

Xconomy San Diego — 

As a scientific advisor to CardioNet (NASDAQ: BEAT) (before the San Diego startup went public last year and moved to Pennsylvania), Eric Topol was in a position to see the coming wave of next-generation wireless technologies in healthcare. Among other things, Topol is the chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, a center funded by a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that includes a focus on wireless healthcare.

Yet the prominent cardiologist recently told me he didn’t realize the potential of this emerging field of innovation until he attended a “Convergence Summit” that was organized last year by San Diego’s Wireless Life Sciences Alliance.

Dr. Eric Topol

Dr. Eric Topol

“It really was the most eye-opening experience,” Topol said, “because all of a sudden, I realized this is just not a cardiology play on heart rhythm or blood pressure. This is going everywhere.” At the same time, of course, Topol said smart phones were hitting their stride and it was becoming apparent that 3G wireless networks were capable of carrying video and enormous amounts of data.

Using wireless networks to monitor cardiovascular function was an obvious opening for technology innovation because heart failure is a critical healthcare issue, and because heart arrthymias are often transitory and difficult to detect in a hospital setting. But Topol said the scope of potential opportunities hit him as he listened to presentations on using wireless technologies to measure patients’ blood sugar, monitor sleep disorders, track respiratory function, and a host of other medical applications. He saw how it would be possible to share data with patients on their own cell phones, along with related information. Asthma and allergy sufferers, for example, could get a report on their respiratory function as well as get air quality reports, pollen counts, and weather data.

“It’s an amazing time in medicine where this technology of wireless sensors and wireless systems have been cropping up at quite … Next Page »

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