Full Issues
Download the latest full issue here! →

Interview: Don Jones – Vice President of Wireless Health, Global Strategy and Market Development at Qualcomm Labs

  • Posted On: 10th May 2013

Don Jones

Brenda Wiederhold: What first interested you in wireless health? What is your background?

Don Jones: Before joining Qualcomm to head up our Wireless Health initiative, I developed and grew various healthcare enterprises for 22 years. I was Chief Operating Officer of MedTrans, which was renamed American Medical Response (AMR), the world’s largest emergency medical and physician services provider. I have also founded, run and held various senior executive roles at healthcare companies in consumer membership primary care services, women’s health, and housecalls. I was first interested in wireless health when I realized my background in emergency services provided a great deal of relevant knowledge about mobile healthcare and the use of wireless technologies.  We started using wireless technologies with electrocardiograph medical devices in the 1970s.  In between sales of companies, I had an opportunity to advise one of Qualcomm’s business units on the use of wireless technologies in healthcare and this led to the development of a platform that serves companies like CardioNet today. Later, Qualcomm’s CEO asked if I might join Qualcomm and take a look at the entire field of wireless technologies in healthcare.  After leading multiple successful start-ups, I thought working with Qualcomm might present some really interesting opportunities for companies to partner in wireless health.


Brenda Wiederhold: Tell us more about the aims of your trade organization, Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance.

Don Jones: I founded the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA) because there was not a venue for the leaders of the wireless and healthcare industries to get together and discuss collaboration. Today, WLSA is the world’s first organization focused on doing just this – accelerating the convergence of the wireless and healthcare industries. WLSA produces global forums that bridge the gap between the wireless and health industries by enabling new business models and improvements in consumer health, fitness, clinical services, medical devices, and healthcare IT. To see WLSA become the world’s foremost industry organization in the wireless health space is something I am very proud of, but didn’t necessarily anticipate. Today WLSA offers members a May Summit targeting the investor and senior executive communities and an October Symposia focused on engineering and clinical integration which has university participation from six continents, the first of its kind in the world. Both events are located in San Diego.  Participating companies come from medical device, pharmaceutical, health services and consumer product areas, and is an interesting mix including J&J, St. Jude, P&G, Sanofi-Aventis and many early stage companies.

Brenda Wiederhold: You say that one of your favorite mantras is:  “Wireless health collapses time and space in health careSM.” Can you expand on that?

Don Jones: Wireless technologies collapse time and space (location) in healthcare, in that it enables things to happen faster than they otherwise would. For example, Telcare’s 3G-enabled blood glucose meter (BGM) will allow diabetics to send their blood glucose readings to caregivers and reorder their supplies (testing strips, insulin, lancing devices, etc.) in real-time. Tools like Telcare’s BGM make managing chronic diseases seamless and easy. Wireless Health collapses space in healthcare in that it enables “healthcare” to take place outside of traditional healthcare settings. That is, healthcare isn’t just inside the hospital anymore, as wireless technology is bringing it to consumers’ homes, to remote villages, etc. Wireless fitness devices enable consumers to be proactive about their health, and improve wellness through personalized health feedback loops that only wireless connectivity provides. Remote monitoring solutions like the Corventis patch are replacing large, in-hospital machinery with peel-and-stick smart band-aids, allowing for monitoring, diagnoses and therapy management to take place in a patient’s home, or even in rural areas that didn’t have access to health specialists and equipment before.

Brenda Wiederhold: You also speak to the importance of taking charge of one’s own health. How does wireless health fit in?

Don Jones: We believe in empowering consumers to take charge of their own health. Currently we live in a “sick care system” where physicians and hospitals make money when people are sick, and consumers react to health problems as they occur. Wireless health and fitness devices can provide consumers with information about their current state of health that they have not had before. Integrating wireless connectivity into health devices and services provides users with real-time feedback and health statistics – “our numbers,” so to speak. How many steps have I taken today? How is my weight trending? And more. As more devices and services become available in the marketplace, we will see these numbers aggregated into personalized health dashboards on our phones, tablets and health devices, giving users more knowledge about their health than was ever possible before.

Brenda Wiederhold: Tell us more about how Qualcomm’s Internet of Everything Modules, (IEM), which you describe as “a low-power, compact wireless module that’s designed to enable a new wave of highly personalized mobile experiences and services” can improve healthcare.

Don Jones: Qualcomm’s Internet of Everything Module (IEM) design is one of the smallest modules in the world, about the size of a U.S. Quarter or a European Euro, and was originally designed for wearable medical devices. The module design has an accelerometer and GPS, voice and data capabilities, which allow for many health use cases. From fall detection, to emergency response, to location tracking, this module supports many of the functionalities a health sensor needs. Its size, advanced capabilities and power management optimize the design for health and fitness solutions. The IEM has passed PTCRB Certification and has become a reference module for the OEM module industry to help companies take advantage of the size footprint and technology integration that is possible.  As we move to a world of “an Internet of Things,” integrated modules like this which facilitate the wireless enablement of many devices, even very small devices, open up a world of connected health possibilities.

Brenda Wiederhold: What are you most proud of in your career?

Don Jones: I am most proud of raising the bar in healthcare services. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in founding, growing and running many healthcare companies that changed care and improved outcomes for millions of people.  Early in my career I created a new service offering called Critical Care Transportation.  It’s now a $2.5 Billion market sector in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Growing a small, San Diego-based EMS company into the global, multi-billion dollar giant, AMR, was another eventful part of my experience. The consumer-facing, multi-billion dollar company I founded in Mexico, EMME, was perhaps the most interesting. EMME now employs hundreds of physicians, serving hundreds of thousands of members in Monterrey and Guadalajara, with a very unique business model that is not very different than a cell phone subscription.  I’m attracted by opportunities which are not just a “me too” offering, but when new services and products can be brought to the table that enhance the user experience and bring value.

Don Jones: The conception of the West Wireless Health Institute, and joining with Eric Topol, M.D. and Gary and Mary West to make it a reality was another key set of events in my life.  I enjoy bringing all the components – the technology, the people and the service concepts – together to improve offerings beyond the status quo.

Brenda Wiederhold: What do you predict as the new trends for technology & healthcare for the next decade?

Don Jones: One trend we’re seeing is the shifting from a “sick care” system to a health improvement system. Currently consumers engage with healthcare systems or their healthcare providers when they are sick. Physicians and hospitals make money when patients are sick, and there are no incentives for keeping patients healthy, or for consumers to keep themselves healthy.

Similarly, we are seeing health move from the hospital to the home. As more wireless health devices, services and apps enter the market consumers are being proactive about their health, and using these tools to improve their fitness and wellness.

There is also an increased focus on the consumer as new wireless health devices and services are being designed. Gaming, social networking and digital media are all coming into play to ensure that these innovative health solutions are widely adopted by consumers.

Brenda Wiederhold: Do you feel most people are willing to embrace new technologies?

Don Jones: Absolutely. In fact, research is showing that not only do consumers want these technologies, but that they are willing to pay for them too. It is projected that 400 million wearable sensors will be in the market annually by 2014. Additionally, in the U.S. alone, out-of-pocket spending (OOP) on healthcare rose from $380 Billion in 2009, which is 13 percent of the total amount spent on health. Consumers are desperate for health solutions and services that enable them to manage their own health instead of paying high prices for treatment in healthcare systems and institutions.

Brenda Wiederhold: Anything you’d like to add?

Don Jones: We are at the cutting edge of a brand new decade of digitally connected services in healthcare. These services will impact the traditional healthcare fields, the physicians, hospitals and service providers, but will ultimately have a much more profound impact on the end user, the consumer, who will become more empowered to manage their own health. If a consumer suffers from a healthcare condition and can monitor their status with wireless health tools, they can assist in their own diagnostics and therapy management. The key in the future will be the ability to combine data from different devices and sources to create real self-management solutions.

Qualcomm is actively working on the technologies to make this a reality – to enable medical device companies, health software companies and health analytics to all play a more convenient and relevant part in our lives while adding real value. We have a great team at Qualcomm and within our Qualcomm Wireless Health group, and I am proud to be a part of laying the groundwork. We have a unique opportunity to partner with the healthcare industry and enable care, services and solutions beyond what currently exists or is even envisioned.  I think consumers will be thrilled with the solutions they will see.  This is the next chapter of health – and is one I expect to be equally as proud of my work in.

Brenda Wiederhold About Brenda Wiederhold
President of Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) in Brussels, Belgium. Executive VP Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), based in San Diego and Los Angeles, California. CEO of Interactive Media Institute a 501c3 non-profit Clinical Instructor in Department of Psychiatry at UCSD Founder of CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy, & Social Networking Conference Visiting Professor at Catholic University Milan.

Written by Brenda Wiederhold

President of Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) in Brussels, Belgium. Executive VP Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), based in San Diego and Los Angeles, California. CEO of Interactive Media Institute a 501c3 non-profit Clinical Instructor in Department of Psychiatry at UCSD Founder of CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy, & Social Networking Conference Visiting Professor at Catholic University Milan.