AT&T launches 'ForHealth' division and a suite of new products

By Mike Miliard
10:41 AM
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AT&T on Thursday announced a new practice area and portfolio of specialized services that seek to harness IT to help improve patient care and reduce medical costs nationwide.

Called AT&T ForHealth, it will accelerate delivery of innovative wireless, networked and cloud-based solutions specifically for the healthcare industry.

According to IDC, the U.S. market for healthcare IT solution spending is $33.9 billion in 2010 and estimated to grow 24 percent over the next four years. AT&T said it generated approximately $4 billion in revenue from healthcare industry businesses such as hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, suppliers and physicians in 2009.

Healthcare leaders said AT&T’s focused expansion would usher in many benefits, including reducing costs by eliminating unnecessary medical tests and improving care by enabling providers to transfer electronic health records in a highly secure manner.

The American Hospital Association has exclusively endorsed a suite of AT&T services that enable the sharing of health information and applications.

“Today's announcements signal an exciting new era where our technology and smart networks can help improve the quality of care, reduce costs, and contribute to a healthier world,” said Dan Walsh, senior vice president at AT&T, who was appointed to lead the ForHealth practice area. 

Walsh announced the following services/solutions currently under development:

  • mHealth services. AT&T’s mHealth Services are a new set of IT solutions for healthcare that combine mobility technologies, devices, connectivity, and applications to help drive down medical costs and deliver improved patient outcomes. AT&T’s mHealth Services will be focused on helping healthcare institutions and patients manage disease, take the appropriate medicine, receive home care, manage weight loss, and monitor wellness programs.
  • Cloud-based services. A new set of cloud-based, medical image archive applications and security services that will permit healthcare providers to share clinical data in a highly-secure manner, scaled to handle the huge bandwidth demands driven by live video, images and medical records. Solutions planned to be delivered by AT&T on-demand and “as-a-service” include managed hosting, storage, security and consulting services.

“AT&T’s focused healthcare strategy has put healthcare IT innovation on the fast track, benefiting the health of patients across the nation,” said Lac V. Tran, senior vice president and chief information officer and associate dean of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and a member of AT&T’s Healthcare Executive Advisory Council.

AT&T will also work with multiple customers on trial healthcare solutions powered by its mobile and networking technologies:

  • Employee Diabetes Management. On Oct. 13, AT&T and WellDoc announced a strategic alliance to market and sell WellDoc’s mobile health solution in the United States to facilitate improved patient outcomes and reduce the spiraling costs of managing chronic diseases. AT&T plans to deploy the WellDoc technology through an internal initiative with a select number of employees, using WellDoc DiabetesManager System in 2011. AT&T will potentially expand to other disease areas (upon FDA clearance) including: heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and oncology.
  • Smart Slippers. AT&T Labs researchers are collaborating with hospitals and universities on “smart slippers” that wirelessly monitor a patient’s gait to identify pressure signatures. Capturing changes in acceleration and pressure measurements, the sensors could alert caregivers to respond quickly to falls, or possibly help prevent them. A clinical trial testing the networked insole is now under way.

All of AT&T’s planned offers will be available as stand-alone networking solutions or can also be integrated with AT&T’s flagship health information exchange, AT&T Healthcare Community Online – that cloud-based service permits providers within a healthcare system to exchange health information and share applications in a highly secure manner.

The planned AT&T mobility and cloud-based networking solutions and pilot programs build upon a portfolio that includes:

  • Telehealth Solutions. AT&T’s Telehealth Solutions utilize high-definition video and audio conferencing technology to enable patients in rural or underserved areas to consult with medical specialists and even receive examinations in the comfort of their primary physician’s office, community hospital or clinic.
  • Healthcare Pagers. AT&T and Wallace Wireless, Inc. recently announced a healthcare notification and pager replacement solution that can simplify communications within a healthcare organization by allowing hospitals and healthcare organizations to reach healthcare workers and contractors regardless of the mobile device or carrier they choose.
  • Automated Pill Bottle Caps. In March, AT&T announced it would provide wireless connectivity for Vitality GlowCaps, which send visual and audio reminders to patients to remind them to take their medication.

"AT&T continues to make great strides in healthcare,” said Mike Sapien, principal analyst, Enterprise Practice, U.S., at Ovum. “We’re glad to see tangible evidence of Telehealth business through AT&T’s solid platforms to expand advanced and mobile services beyond network and managed services.”

AT&T is working with a number of customers to deploy healthcare solutions, including providing Houston-based eCardio Diagnostics with machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless data and mobile connectivity for near real-time, remote monitoring of cardiac patients; working with the University of California to create the country’s largest telehealth network; joining with West Tennessee Healthcare, one of the largest public, not-for-profit healthcare systems in Tennessee, to implement AT&T Healthcare Community Online (HCO) throughout the 17 counties the system serves.

“We believe the healthcare industry is at a ‘tipping point’ for fundamental change that will improve patients' care and lead to better healthcare outcomes,” said John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Business Solutions. “Networking solutions, using cloud-based, mobility and telepresence technologies, can help the overall industry deliver better care to people while driving costs out of the system."