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AT&T Opens Up on HealthAT&T Opens Up on Health

AT&T wants to build some of its own 'mHealth' services, but it's also open to letting developers tap its network to build their own.

Sarah Thomas

November 1, 2013

3 Min Read
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

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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