Jitterbug Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) founded in 2006. They offer simplified mobile hardware and service targeted towards baby boomers, with the value proposition being the opposite of a feature-rich phone. Few big, buttons and great customer service are it’s selling points for seniors who are looking for hassle-free wireless connectivity. Verizon Wireless is their main underlying network provider.

My interest piqued after I heard David L. Inns (Jitterbug CEO) speak at the Mobile Health 2010 event held in May 2010 at Stanford University. He described a sizable list of Health-related services available to Jitterbug customers. Here is the current list, and pertinent facts (from May 2010 time frame) from the presentation he gave at the event:

  • Check-in Calls: Automated calls to check-in on the user or a loved one. $5/month.
  • Medication Reminders: Automated calls at the right time to remind taking medication. Neat functionality includes a prescription refill reminders (with option to be connected to the pharmacy), personal dashboard that tracks medication adherence, and the ability to share it with others. In partnership with Meridian Health. $10/month.
  • LiveNurse: Unlimited 24-access to a registered nurse for health advice and information. Free on rate plan $29 and up, $4 month otherwise. 12,000 reported users in 6 months post-release and about 4000 calls handled per month. One-fifth of the callers end up seeking medical attention within 24 hours.
  • Daily Health Tips: Daily guidance and tips on living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Free. In partnership with the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Movement. Reported 4,000 users.
  • Wellness Calls: 5-minute per week motivational calls with tips and techniques related to topics like sleeplessness, stress, loneliness etc. Attracted 1,000 users in one month. Free with plans above $29. Content by Brian Alman who runs TruSage.
  • 5 Star Emergency Response: Personal emergency response service. Based on the offering by startup MobiWatch that they acquired late 2009. Supposed to be launching around Fall 2010.
  • D-Coach: A little-known, yet-to-be-launched diabetes management service in partnership with WellDoc. Incidentally, WellDoc’s Diabetes service recently got FDA clearance in August 2010.

None of these service concepts are unique per se, each has been attempted by other wireless (and non-wireless) companies. But two things make them highly viable within Jitterbug. First is their niche target market. It’s no secret that majority of healthcare costs are due to individuals age 65 and up. And that is Jitterbug’s target user too. A personal mobile device may provide the elusive ‘last-mile‘ access to such individuals. Second is the personalized, high-touch nature of Jitterbug’s service. Jitterbug users are already used to connecting with a human operator with one button-click and use them for pretty much everything – find a contact, dial the number, get weather info, etc.. Adding health-related services to that framework makes undeniable sense.

It’s not hard to imagine other services waiting to materialize- outpatient appointment scheduling and reminders, preventive services (flu shots, etc.) assistance, personal health record information access, to name a few. I bet we’ll see more wireless network operators move into the healthcare services vertical. For now, advantage Jitterbug.