Verizon's chief seeks 'higher gear'

Keynote at mHealth Summit focused on gizmos, process
By Eric Wicklund
06:35 AM

We might as well call this the Gizmo Generation.

As Peter Tippett, chief medical officer and vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions sees it, today's healthcare landscape is filled with gizmos, mobile devices that attach to the body or sit inside the home and collect important health and wellness data. That data, in turn, needs to be seen by doctors – but not until it passes through the cloud, is analyzed and sorted and made meaningful.

Verizon wants to handle that data transfer, and the privacy and security processes, and the analysis, so that the whole process is made simple for the patient and caregiver.

[See also: Verizon takes healthcare to the cloud.]

"Healthcare is going to change like the PC revolution changed everything else," said Tippett, who delivered the Tuesday morning keynote at the 2012 mHealth Summit. And that revolution, he said, will only succeed if the impediments to quick and easy transmission of data are overcome.

"We need to find a higher gear," he concluded.

Tippett, who helped create the first anti-virus program, began his talk by pointing out that a recent Institute of Medicine report identified more than $700 billion in savings in today's fractured healthcare landscape if certain processes were improved. Those processes, he said, can be found through IT – and yet healthcare is "dead last" among industries in using cloud computing and IT.

"Part of the reason for that is regulatory overhang," he said.

As mHealth tools and services – or gizmos – are used to "drive healthcare out to the edges," Tippett said, the privacy and security framework in place has to be made as seamless as possible, so that someone could conceivably push a button and immediately get healthcare.

[See also: Verizon Releases Industry-by-Industry Snapshots of Cybercrime.]

"We need to get stronger identity (management), but we need to make it invisible," he said. That means enabling form factors that vary from individual to individual, based on preference, and can be as simple as a phone call or text message – basically, "accepting whatever they have" to prove identity.

And, of course, everything has to be made HIPAA-compliant.

"This is important. We've brought this on ourselves," Tippett said. "We want to be HIPAA compliant."

Tippett was followed on Tuesday morning by two well-known patient advocates, who spoke of the need to expand the mHealth ecosystem to patient advocacy.

Donna Cryer, president and CEO of the American Liver Foundation – and the first patient to ever lead the organization – spoke of the need to marry the ambitious and far-flung e-patient movement with the more traditional patient advocacy organization.

"We need to invite e-patients into our organization," she said. "They're not going to naturally come to us."

MaryAnne Sterling, CEO of Sterling Health IT Consulting, spoke of the need to use mHealth to connect the family caregiver to the healthcare chain. Society has evolved from retail stores to Amazon, from cellphones to smartphones and from books to e-books, she said, "but there is no technical innovation for the caregiver."

"Family caregivers need information specific to the phase of caregiving they're in," said Sterling, who has spent 16 years as a caregiver, with her husband, to three of four parents diagnosed with some sort of dementia. "You are in exactly the right place to help create a family caregiver ecosystem."