AT&T announces new health division

Faith Merino · November 4, 2010 · Short URL:

AT&T ForHealth will provide a number of mobile and networking solutions to healthcare professionals

Health is a big industry, and Republicans and Democrats have long disagreed over the best way to approach healthcare in the U.S.  Now that the Republicans are retaking the House of Representatives, healthcare is one of the primary concerns.  But in terms of developing new technology that will enable earlier detection, make diagnosis more accurate, and speed recovery, both parties can find a middle ground in support of innovation.

AT&T announced Thursday a new practice area and portfolio called AT&T ForHealth, which will develop wireless, networked, and cloud-based solutions for the healthcare industry.  Among the solutions in development are:

mHealth Services: a set of mobile solutions (devices, connectivity, apps, etc.) that will help patients manage disease, remember to take medications, manage weight loss, and monitor wellness programs.  For example, a patient with diabetes can use a mobile app to monitor glucose levels and receive alerts on his or her phone when it may be time to eat something.

Cloud-based Services: services that will allow healthcare providers to share medical information via cloud computing.  AT&T will be offering on-demand services such as managed hosting, storage, security, and consulting services.

Pilot programs: AT&T will be working with healthcare professionals to design healthcare solutions using mobile and networking technology.  Current pilots underway include Smart Slippers, a pair of slippers that wirelessly monitor a patient’s gait to identify pressure signals.  Presently, the Smart Slippers pilot is focusing on preventing or monitoring falls in patients (particularly elderly patients), and can be used to alert professionals if a patient’s “slippers” aren’t detecting pressure, which means they’ve fallen. 

All of AT&T’s health services will be offered as both stand-alone services and as part of AT&T’s health information exchange program, AT&T Healthcare Community Online, a cloud-based networking solution that allows healthcare providers to exchange information online and cut down on unnecessary costs that may be incurred through preventable mistakes, like duplicate tests.

AT&T already boasts a health portfolio that includes AT&T’s Telehealth Solutions, which uses video and audio conferencing to allow patients in rural and under-served areas to consult a specialist who may be hundreds of miles away.  AT&T partnered with the University of California in April to provide Managed Network Services for the California Telehealth network, as part of a 3-year $27 million contract.  More than 800 hospitals and clinics will be linked to the network by the end of 2011, making the project the largest Telehealth network in the country.

Other customers include Houston, TX-based eCardio Diagnostics, which AT&T will provide with machine-to-machine wireless data that will allow for remote, real-time monitoring of cardiac patients.  AT&T has also partnered with West Tennessee Healthcare to expand AT&T Healthcare Community Online to 17 counties throughout Tennessee. 

“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 AT&T Business Solutions, in the company’s announcement.  “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.”

Indeed, healthcare is making its presence more and more known in the online and mobile world.  The winner of September's Vator Splash competition was, an online counseling and psychiatry platform that allows patients to access mental health counseling via email, video, phone, or chat. The startup was lauded at Vator Splash for its accessibility and the privacy that it ensures mental health patients.

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