BlackBerry takes a different tack on mobile health with apps for healthcare professionals

BlackBerry is taking the concept of mobile health a step further than rival smartphone makers with plans to launch apps specifically for healthcare professionals.

The Canadian smartphone maker will begin its health push with the launch of an application that enables doctors to remotely access the genetic data of cancer patients. The application was developed by NantHealth, a company that provides healthcare data services in which BlackBerry acquired a minority stake in April 2014, Reuters reported.

BlackBerry will make the application available in 2015 on its Passport smartphone, the news agency added.

John Chen, CEO of the device maker, told Bloomberg that many hospitals and healthcare staff already use the company's smartphones, but that the dedicated apps have the potential to bring new users on board. In addition to enabling doctors to access medical records, the genome app will also recommend potential treatments.

The CEO is betting that BlackBerry's reputation for a high level of mobile data security will make the company an attractive option for sensitive industries including healthcare, reported.

In November, Chen said the company will focus more on profitability than trying to compete with smartphone market leaders including Samsung and Apple by producing a large range of devices, sister publication FierceWireless reported, citing Reuters. Chen is banking on BlackBerry's strong reputation as a software provider and its track record of security in corporate communications to achieve his profitability goal.

The approach appears to be bearing fruit: BlackBerry reported a lower than expected net loss in its fiscal second quarter--which runs to end-August--in part due to a good reception for the Passport device, Bloomberg reported.

Rival smartphone vendor Samsung arguably kickstarted the trend for incorporating health features directly into handsets, when it embedded a heart-rate monitor into its Galaxy S5 device. While there are myriad other personal fitness products in the market, most of those tend to come in the form of a wearable device such as those from Fitbit.

ABI Research in June named Fitbit a market leader as it revealed that activity trackers dominated sales of wearable devices in the opening three months of 2014.

Meanwhile, IHS recently predicted that sales of sensors for mobile phones--including Samsung's heart rate monitor and Apple's biometric scanner--will hit $6.5 billion (€5.2 billion) in 2018, a threefold increase over 2012.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- view this Bloomberg report
- read the report
- see this FierceWireless article
- view this Bloomberg earnings report

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