Intel's health challenge

Intel's health challenge

Summary: Intel got into a consumer market it did not yet understand because it found an opportunity it could not resist.


Intel TeleHealthIn writing about Intel's new TeleHealth health monitor last month, I sort of glossed over the market challenges it faces in making the system pay.

A little online investigating shows that those challenges are considerable, and that the company is aware of them.

ZDNet Asia noted the system was approved for home use, but that market does not yet exist, and will take extensive back-end integration to create.

Intel got into a consumer market it did not yet understand because it found an opportunity it could not resist.

The product was actually acquired through WebVMC LLC of Conyers, Georgia in May.

While then-President and CTO Scott Shepherd said Intel "acquired the assets" of his company, it had in fact been growing fast through prestige customers like Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.

The opportunity appeared just months after the sudden resignation of WebVMC chief development officer Bill Behnke, who had previously led Cogent Healthcare from start-up to going concern.

The challenge for Intel is to expand beyond the hospital niche into nursing homes, retirement communities and home care. This was just hinted at by Chad Clemons, who apparently led Intel's side on the deal, in a blog post last month.

In IT, we talk about "customers" which refers to Intel employees using IT services, not Intel customers who buy and use Intel's products.

Intel must not only touch individual consumers with a long-term age-in-place vision, but create alliances and a channel in markets where it has little experience.

ChillMark Research called the WebVMC deal a "savvy move," but pointed out several integration issues the company faces in dealing with Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Personal Health Record (PHR) systems like Microsoft HealthVault.

Chillmark quoted an Intel executive saying a full introduction must wait until Intel gets its strategy straight, perhaps delaying it until early next year.

This market is important for more than Intel, however.

Dana Blankenhorn, July 2008As baby boomers (like me) continue to age we face an increasing shortage of caregivers and facilities which can give care.

Monitoring technology like this, which can dramatically increase the productivity of such workers without losing quality, is essential if our creaking bones aren't going to break the U.S. health care system over the next decades.

I called this kind of technology The World of Always On when I first began covering it five years ago, defining medical applications like this one as "killer apps."

Having a main-line technology company like Intel involved is also important so that medical applications can be integrated with home automation and inventory systems, creating an "Internet of Things" based on wireless networks, applications which live in the air.

It took courage on Intel's part to grab WebVMC, and it will take equal courage for it to capitalize on the opportunity. It may be the most important medical technology story of the coming years.

This box may just save your life.

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Health, Intel, Software, IT Employment

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  • Why not employ this tech with employees?

    Intel has some 87,000 employees it can work with to opt in with this. Why not do this? I am sure they can get several other large Fortune 500's to get int the act to create a critical mass of users for this.

    With healthcare are huge part of corporate expenses, it's about time these large companies exert the collective influence and HUGE heathcase budgets to push for standards.

    Intel should not wait for the slogs in Washgington to make anything happen.
    • A link to concierge medicine?

      Costco and Microsoft have already enrolled employees in a concierge medicine service called Carena. If they added Intel that would be another way to approach the market.