Paul Sonnier has established himself as one of the most influential voices in the wireless and mobile health field. He wears several hats, including mentor at health startup accelerator Blueprint Health, head of Digital Health Strategy at health consultancy Popper & Co and past VP at the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, an industry consortium.
However, he is probably best known for founding and nurturing the 9,000+ member Wireless Health LinkedIn Group. This remarkable aggregation of people with domain expertise in mobile health is often where the latest developments in this fast moving sector are discussed and dissected.
It is also a great place for newcomers to learn the basics and ask questions, such as this great exchange about the definition of mobile versus wireless health. For anybody who has not tried to start an online (or other) “community”, creating and maintaining a group this size is an impressive achievement.
I recently had the chance to talk to Paul about how he got involved in wireless health and how he sees his role as contributing and evangelizing on its behalf. What I found, not surprisingly, is that Paul is an engaging, thoughtful and genuinely helpful individual. I was also very interested in hearing about his involvement with Blueprint Health, a rapidly moving NYC based startup accelerator and about Needl, the health startup he is actively mentoring through Blueprint.
As we recently reported, Needl is led by Rashaun Sourles and Michael Winikoff. Previously Rashaun Sourles spent 7 years in pharma sales at J&J where he earned the “President’s Circle” designation, putting him in the top 10% of J&J reps worldwide based on sales.
Needl strives to help medical device buyers and sellers connect and is currently in private beta at Hennepin County Medical Center–a teaching hospital in downtown Minneapolis. Rashaun described it this way to me:
“Needl is a social Q&A collaboration tool that doctors and pharmacists use to connect to clinical liaisons in Pharma. Think of a private Twitter for health professionals to ask product questions and request service and get answers from the best minds in Pharma, not a rep but someone focused on their unique needs.”
In a recent interview on Medical Marcom, Rashaun shared this experience from their beta site:
“Our pilot hospital is a safety-net hospital that qualifies for special pricing (called 340B). They used NEEDL to identify an area where they were losing money with inefficient contracting. In the current environment, it’s not always easy to get contracts presented to them. Pharma reps don’t have much incentive to present a contract that lowers their overall sales. When they went out on NEEDL looking for better pricing, pharma reps on the other side of the equation responded. NEEDL enabled them to crowd source the solution (in this case, a contract).”
Needl has been described as having the potential to disrupt the pharma & device sales marketplace. With Paul’s tremendous knowledge of the rapidly expanding wireless health devices market and the medical industry generally, it would seem a good fit for Needl to have Paul as one of their Blueprint assigned mentors.
Wireless Health Group
Prior to his involvement in Wireless Health, Paul Sonnier worked at Motorola Mobility where he became involved in CommNexus, a San Diego industry group for communication and related technology companies.
His interest in health applications for wireless technologies was launched within the healthcare special interest group which he continues to co-chair with others including Don Jones, now VP for Global Strategy & Market Development at Qualcomm Life (see our interview with the Qualcomm Life execs at their debut of their 2net platform).
In 2009, Paul founded the Wireless Health Group. The group has always been independent and not funded by any entity. He describes it this way:
“The Wireless Health group serves as an ethical, curated forum for advancing professional knowledge and relationships among individuals interested in the super-convergence taking place between the digital world and the “medical cocoon”, as Dr. Eric Topol has described it.”
I believe this definition sheds light into the unique aspects of community creation. Namely, that the goal of a community group leader is to advance the goals of its individual members.whiling steering the group with a light hand on the rudder. As I see it, this is very different from publishing and content creation, where the goal is to have an overt & consistent voice. To successfully grow and nurture a large community, an open mind and continuous interaction are needed.
Paul describes what he does in the community as “social entrepreneurship” – connecting people and creating opportunities. As he puts it:
“I’ve not done this for compensation, but for the greater good of ultimately improving the health and well-being of all of us, reducing healthcare costs (consumers’ burden, inclusive), spurring economic activity in the form of new business formation (startups), fostering business growth, and creating jobs.”
In fact, by doing this well, he eventually created a position for himself as Vice President at the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, a trade organization to bring together wireless health companies with “business leaders and researchers in healthcare and technology, to accelerate business opportunities and improve healthcare globally.” From there, he went on to become Head of Digital Health Strategy for the Popper group, a health consultancy and most recently a mentor at Blueprint Health.
Referring to Clay Shirky who says: ”It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure”, Paul says one of the valuable contributions of the group, is to prevent “filter failure”. By continuously finding and highlighting important news about wireless health, the group captures the “zeitgeist” of the ongoing paradigm change into the era of digital health.
Thus, by making connections, mentoring startups and surfacing important information, Paul Sonnier continues to catalyze the global digital health and mHealth ecosystem.