More than 17,000 mobile health applications are on the market, yet they're not compatible with each other. To resolve this problem, AT&T is planning to hook up these proprietary tools. The company has launched a beta version of a cloud developer portal called Developer Center ForHealth to allow these mobile apps to be accessible by hospital systems and medical peripherals.
The Developer Center will consist of an open set of developer tools and infrastructure to help health care organizations deploy and manage mobile health apps. Software producers can access the Developer Center at mhealth.att.com.
ForHealth, the health care practice AT&T launched in 2010, will oversee the Developer Center.
AT&T also formed Development Center ForHealth through the AT&T Foundry, a unit that fosters innovation in applications, devices, cloud computing, enabling technologies and operational support.
The Developer Center also features an API gateway and mobile client that developers can embed into third-party applications, allowing them to link to each other, as well as to medical devices and peripherals. Through the API gateway, applications will be able to link to blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and other devices.
While 500 million people are expected to be using mobile health apps worldwide by 2015, many of todays apps can't connect to clinical workflows, said Eleanor Chye, executive director of mobile health care and pharma at AT&T. "We're going to create the common pipes through which data will flow," she told eWEEK. AT&T will provide a free software development kit (SDK).
By using AT&T's tools, developers will be able to create both mash-up and umbrella applications to make these apps compatible, Chye said. Through the Developer Center, IT professionals designing applications will be able to create GUIs to allow doctors and patients to access information such as lab reports or electronic prescriptions in various formats, she added.
The developer kit will enable developers to install soft keys in applications to allow individuals to manage their health care data, Chye said.
"The AT&T Developer Center ForHealth is fundamental to our m-health strategy, as we plan to use the same infrastructure and services that we make available to developers to create our own interconnected health care applications focused on mobile patient care and enterprise mobilization," Chris Hill, vice president of advanced mobility solutions at AT&T Business Solutions, said in a statement.
Proprietary mobile health apps are like "stand-alone electronic log books," AT&T reported.
In addition, AT&T is working on creating a data-integration engine to link apps to data systems for hospitals, physicians and health insurers.
"We're creating an ecosystem where they can easily utilize an open environment to build apps that transmit consumers' data from a variety of sources in a highly secure manner," said Hill.
AT&T will collaborate with partners, such as health IT conference organizers HIMSS and Health 2.0, on hackathons and codeathons to get the development community to test the Developer Center tools, said Chye.
The company will also collaborate with health care IT startup accelerator Rock Health on developer boot camps.
With a need to invest in HIPAA- (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant data storage, hospitals find it costly to get applications connected, Chye said. She noted that connecting mobile health tools and using them with patients could cost hospitals $3,000 per application.