M2M Platforms

AT&T Opens Up on Health

SAN JOSE -- Digital Disruption 2013 -- AT&T works with partners behind the scenes for M2M devices, and it has its own branded Digital Life service in the home, but it's looking at a combination of those two approaches when it comes to the healthcare industry.

The carrier -- a leader in the machine-to-machine communications space -- sees a need and an opportunity in the healthcare industry, so it's exploring several routes to break into what is a complex, highly regulated space. (See AT&T Clinches M2M Market Lead With GE Deal, AT&T Continues Smart Home Push, and AT&T Teams With AMA to Modernize Medicine.)

Nasrin Dayani, executive director of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s mHealth and TeleHealth Solutions, said here that AT&T will launch its own offerings in partnership with big technology partners such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), but its infrastructure and framework are "completely open and would support third-party solutions."

"Like in the past, we're still enabling finished solutions, but also letting people tap into network resources and open infrastructure," she told the Digital Disruption crowd on Thursday.

AT&T wants to use APIs to expose its network assets to developers that can build new services and broaden its healthcare ecosystem. Part of that work happens through its Foundry innovation centers where it works with startups to use its network to power new applications. Dayani said a couple of healthcare solutions have already sprung from here. (See AT&T Opens New Innovation Labs.)

Health challenges
For all its opportunity, the healthcare industry is easily the vertical most rife with challenges -- regulatory, legal, and business-related, especially in the US.

Rick Mallon, Sigma Systems VP of marketing and product management, explained it best this week: "They monitor the heart; the network goes down; the person dies; they get sued; the company goes belly up." Network-based monitoring may be better than none at all, but it's an industry operators have to tread lightly into.

That said, Dayani identified the two biggest opportunities as leveraging the explosion of data from healthcare apps and connected devices and engaging with patients from the mobile phone. Right now, she said, there are 90,000 healthcare apps, but 80 percent only get used for one month or less. Once they solve the engagement issue, they can turn to tackling the data influx.

"That explosion of data will bring its own challenges," she added. "For that data to be useful, it has to be shared in a meaningful way across the entire ecosystem. You can't just push raw data to everyone in the ecosystem. It'll be overwhelming."

Enter big data analytics, which will also play a role in the healthcare industry, in conjunction with clinical decision support. Dayani called for operators to rethink their traditional cloud and database models, as well as their analytics tools and security solutions, and to embrace new standards to make it work. That would be the operators doing their part, but then they'll also have to encourage healthcare establishments to do the same.

"Recognize you're dealing with an established industry; they are not all talking standard APIs," she said. "They don't just say this is my platform, specs, and standards, come and meet them. Over 90 percent of healthcare is provided by 10 players. It's amazingly consolidated, and you need to play by their rules.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

kevinlmcmahon 11/4/2013 | 12:50:22 PM
Re: mHealth Having recently completed a dozen years of embedded M2M device development and SaaS in support of over 20 mHealth research pilots both here in the US and the UK my conclusion is that the emphasis has to be on educational feedback loops. Why ATT thinks they can just focus on creating the data first and then someday figure out how to harness it won't work. Ongoing utilization beyond the first 30 days demands that the data-enabled feedback is personalized and meaningful with measurable impact on health outcomes. The bar is set very, very high in this sector and is not served well by the network operators and tech device companies competing with behavioral specialists. Finally, my company (Diabetech) was the first and perhaps only to obtain reimbursement for mHealth services from a major health payor in 2009 but doctors were unwilling to tell their patients about it in spite of Randomized Controlled clinical trial results proving efficacy. Without doctors endorsing these new services it will take a very long time before any critical uptake occurs. How do you get doctors to endorse anything? They must be paid. My new work is focused on supporting a high touch health coaching model outside of traditional health care.
RitchBlasi 11/1/2013 | 4:36:02 PM
mHealth Guess my rant was a bit off - what I meant is that mHealth could be a better enabler of higher quality healthcare at lower prices than Obamacare.  FYI, I am political party agnostic, so no insult to Dems...or Reps.  

Thought this was an interesting read on innovation and healthcare.


pdonegan67 11/1/2013 | 4:26:48 PM
Re: mHealth Many solid points there, Ritch. I''ll respond in turn with three of my own.

I don't make a habit of doing free advertizing (or ass-kissing) for the GSM Association but with respect to driving industry awareness and collaboration I do think it has been doing a very good job here.

Not enough, no doubt. This is a big, big opportunity to try and get our arms around. And as you point out with your reference to Electronic Health Records there are many national-level e-issues beyond the reach of the telecom industry that remain to be resolved. But in mHealth the GSMA is doing pretty robust good work, I would suggest.

Second, SLAs. Sure, the operators won't deliver anything beyond SLOs (Objectives) today. But evolving in that direction is all part of the industry's next - or is it the one after that ? - phase of maturation. Once you do evolve to bucket-loads of small cells at street level (and a couple in your jacket pocket that you forgot were even there) then the ground should shift here.

Last, mHealth is better than Obamacare? C'mon you're comparing an enabling technology with a political philisophy here. mHealth has got to be an enabling tool to support cost reduction and patient-centeredness no matter the politics of the ecosystem it's supporting.

Many more heads besides ours need turning in these kinds of directions.



RitchBlasi 11/1/2013 | 1:47:29 PM
mHealth I had a client in the banking industry who told me two years ago that people are more concerned about health information than banking info...strange huh?

I too follow and consult in the mHealth arena and while there is tons of money to be made in the areas of fitness and wellness, moving to true health solutions that physicians will use to actually diagnos and treat patients in another animal.

What needs to happen here is a huge education campaign aimed at everyone in the mobile and healthcare ecosystems to provide a better understanding of the obstacles in the way of enabling mHealth.  I bet mHealth would be a better solution than Obamacare.

Mr. Mallon is echoing what I've been saying for the past three years - quality and accuracy are essential to the adoption and growth of true mHealth.  This is one of the reasons why the government has to rethink how it allocates spectrum -- to ensure every bit and byte of information goes through on a transmission -- and offer priority access for hospitals, etc.

I asked a mobile carrier VP of sales a year ago at CTIA if they would give SLAs for its mobile services and he said, "no."  And that's what you'll need to get over that hurdle.

We can get into a discussion of whether it is better to have two or three strong network operators rather then six in a market, but that's a story for another day.

My final word in the area of mHealth is that it is currently being overhyped, and like many other mobile services that are all talk and no action (NFC, videoconferencing, etc), there needs to be a dose of reality placed into the conversations.  How are you supposed to do all these fun things when the healthcare market can't decide on a standard for Electronic Health Records????  The foundation for all of this.

Okay, that's it.

Sarah Thomas 11/1/2013 | 11:19:43 AM
Re: Security Is Going To Be Key Here Great point, Patrick. Rick's scenario could also be reworded that if patient data is exposed, the company could be in a lot of trouble. It's a complex mix of regulation, insurance considerations (also, who pays?), patient, hospitals and doctors, and then the wireless operators. 

Thanks for the white paper, event and webinar shout outs too! Lots of great information on the site, people. Dan will be at the Security conference as well. Should be a great event.
pdonegan67 11/1/2013 | 11:11:34 AM
Security Is Going To Be Key Here AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated 18 months ago that security would be "the long pole in the tent" when it comes to capturing the next level of mobile broadband revenue opportunities including in areas like mHealth.

Since it's the health insurance providers themselves that take on the legal liability for the security of customer information, security is becoming a key differentiator for operators in new markets like this.

mHealth actually features prominently in my new White Paper on LTE security that's available for download from our home page right here (to your right a bit). mHealth also features in a webinar on LTE security that I'm hosting with NSN and Juniper next Thursday November 7th (top of our home page). Yep, on the vendor side NSN and Juniper have figured this out too.

As for AT&T, come and see Sanjay MacWan, VP, Mobility & Cloud Security, AT&T Chief Security Organization and Michael Singer, AVP Mobile, Cloud and Access Management, AT&T Business Solutions at Light Reading's second annual one-day Mobile Network Security conference in New York on December 5th.

They will bring you up to date on how the company is leveraging security for competitive advantage across enterprise and consumer markets. See the top of the Light Reading home page for event details and registration.

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