A California startup is transforming the familiar computer mouse into a health monitor by inserting devices like blood pressure monitors and blood glucose monitors in it.
CalHealth Inc., based in Irvine, is getting ready to launch the MD Mouse by the end of the year. The product will be able to measure blood pressure by having a person’s finger slide inside a cuff that folds out from the middle section of the mouse. The mouse also comes with a personal health record such that the reading is automatically entered into it. The device also has the potential to connect the data to a provider in preparation for a day when physicians and other healthcare providers can receive and share information from patients easily.
“We got the patent from the U.S. patent office in 10 months, which I understand is a record,” said Terrance Molloy, chief operating officer, for CalHealth, in a recent phone interview. “The patent gives us the right to put any monitor so long as it fits in part or in whole inside the mouse.”
The first product launching by the end of the year will be the mouse containing a blood pressure monitor. Other devices are also planned – a mouse with a blood glucose meter, a pulse oximeter and a camera. It’s possible that future devices, will combine two products inside one mouse. So, a camera and a blood glucose meter, could come with the same device.
The Food and Drug Administration cleared the Class II blood pressure monitoring mouse three years ago, but it has taken a long time to get the product ready for market. That’s because MD Mouse is a blood pressure monitor tied to a PHR that can transmit data to care providers, unlike at home monitors intended for personal use. Previously, the FDA was none too concerned about the accuracy of these devices largely meant to be used at home, Molloy said.
“Now that companies like ours and others are connecting these devices to PHRs and EHRs and collecting the data and sending it to a healthcare provider, the FDA is saying that if you are going to be using those devices in those settings we are going to be concerned about their accuracy because now medical decisions will be based on these readings,” Molloy said.
He expects that in the future, FDA will either pull these devices off the market or create a two tiered system whereby those that don’t meet a certain accuracy threshold will be relegated for home use and unable to participate in any kind of electronic data transmission from patients to their providers.
For blood pressure monitors, the devices need to be “within plus/minus 5 millibars of mercury” compared to the “gold standard” which is the mercury-based sphygmomanometer, Molloy said.
The MD Mouse falls within those parameters now but it took some time and effort to get there, Molloy said. Future devices will contain pulse oximeters and glucose monitors already available and within set accuracy parameters, so CalHealth will not need to build one from scratch.
Currently, the startup having three full-time employees, has a manufacturing partner in Taiwan to make the MD Mouse. Molloy also plans to raise about $1 million in addition to the $1 million the company already raised to commercialize the product.
But the focus is now on striking deals deals with pharmacies to sell the product for about $59 in retail.
“Most blood pressure monitors, glucose monitors and pulse oximeters are sold in pharmacies. So that’s a big market for us and we hope to sell these at CVS, Walmart, RiteAid,” Molloy said.
However, with the rise of smartphones and tablets, the question is, is this a viable market? That is a familiar question for Molloy.
“We run into people who say that mice are going the way of the horse and buggy (and) what is your point,” Molloy said “The demographics we are looking at are really not the smartphone and tablet crowd. These are people who are a little bit older, a little bit sedentary than they need to be. These are not 80-year-old chronically ill people.”
Overseas, especially, in places like China and India, smartphone and tablet penetration is negligible.
“When you look at markets outside the U.S., the mouse market is still a pretty healthy markets,” Molloy said “It’s still growing and still viable market for the next 10 to 15 years.