Personalized Medicine Gets a Boost from Big Mobile

By Jennifer Dennard
08:04 AM

I’ve watched with interest for the last 18 months or so as the big mobile phone companies – mainly Verizon and AT&T at this point – have slowly but surely creeped into the healthcare space. I’ve noticed the pace of announcements from these two companies has picked up a bit since HIMSS, where I had a nice chat with Dr. Geeta Nayyar, Chief Medical Information Officer at AT&T ForHealth, about the company’s new focus on using mobile technologies to improve clinical care.

Back in February, she talked a bit about plans around chronic care management, and pointed to diabetes in particular. This summer has brought with it news of the company signing a deal with Alere to market WellDoc’s DiabetesManager mobile health tool to health plans and corporate payers, as well as of a collaboration with National LambdaRail – an advanced research communications network that helps connect researchers in the area of genomic medicine.

According to an AT&T press release, the company will “deliver high bandwidth connectivity to NLR’s national network infrastructure for leading health sciences institutions,” starting with the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Health Center in California.

To find out what exactly this will mean in terms of advancing clinical care, I reached back out to Dr. Nayyar for more detail.

How many healthcare facilities do you anticipate becoming part of this network?
“The announcement is the first step toward a networking solution to inter-connect major cancer centers, universities, medical schools, research hospitals, laboratories and other institutions across the United States to help transform the healthcare industry’s ability to diagnose, prevent, treat and/or manage illness and medical conditions of all kinds. The ultimate goal of the broader solution is to connect virtually all of the nation's key academic, healthcare and research institutions to accelerate the translation of new science into therapy and better healthcare.”

The PR mentions Saint John’s Health Center as the first institution to receive high bandwidth connectivity via NLR. What will be the second? Third?
“We’re unable to able to share details on other institutions at this time. AT&T has agreed to provide middle and last mile connections to NLR’s nationwide backbone infrastructure.”
How did research facilities serviced by National LambdaRail previously receive their connection?
“Since its inception a decade ago, NLR has partnered with state-based regional optical networks that provide facilities-based middle and last mile connectivity to universities, academic medical centers and research institutions.”
The PR also mentions that this collaboration will put “a transformative tool in the hands of doctors at the point of care.” Can you offer an example scenario of how this will work to the patient’s benefit?
“Personalized medicine represents an evolution in clinical care that offers new ways of diagnosing, predicting outcomes, and effectively treating illness while minimizing side effects. The concept is that providers are able to specifically customize care for an individual patient, based on their specific genetic profile.

“Currently, there is no way for a doctor to really know with certainty if an individual patient will respond to medications or treatments that are prescribed. Genomic medicine allows the possibility of tailoring care to an individual’s genetic makeup and even predicting how their disease may progress or respond to specific interventions. This is different from much of the research available today, which is based on generalized population response data.

“Chronic and life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, are complex in nature and involve analysis of cells, molecular function, proteins and enzymes, and the signaling pathways that comprise biological life. Since each of these can vary for every person, the nature of diseases - including their onset, their course and how they might respond to drugs or other interventions - is as individual as the people who have them.”

Developments such as these remind me that there is an incredible amount of infrastructure involved in delivering modern healthcare. Though the effort may not seem as buzz-worthy as the flashier WellDoc/Alere/mobile health announcement, I wouldn’t wonder if this high bandwidth connectivity will actually enable more accelerated clinical transformation. 


Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA, Porter Research and Connect with her on Twitter @SmyrnaGirl.