ATandT Aligns New Health Care Business Around Mobility, the Cloud

AT&T's new ForHealth practice will combine existing health care projects with future services in mobility and in the cloud.

AT&T has formed a new health care unit called ForHealth to combine current services with future mobile and cloud products to improve the quality of patient care and lower medical costs across the United States, the company reports.

"It's a formulization of the structure, the practice, the continued investment, pulling everything together into a more aggregate approach not only in the market but internally within our structure," Brenda Crawford, AT&T's assistant vice president for health care marketing, told eWEEK. "We're tapping into the core capabilities we've had and augmenting them for the health care requirements."

ForHealth will serve payers, providers and IT companies, Crawford said.

"We believe the health care industry is at a 'tipping point' for fundamental change that will improve patients' care and lead to better health care outcomes," said John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions, in a statement. "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."

One major area of ForHealth will be mobile health, which includes the wireless connectivity the company provides for Vitality's GlowCap electronic pill covers. The GlowCaps shine a glowing light, plays a tune or send text messages or e-mails when it's time for patients to take their medication.

"A lot of what we're doing is focused on using mobile technology to advance the wellness of patients," Crawford said.

The other major focus for ForHealth is in the cloud, an area that includes
the wireless provider's HIE health information exchange network, called AT&T Healthcare Community Online (HCO). The cloud division will also offer medical image archive software and security services, as well as managed hosting, storage, security and consulting services, either on demand or as a service, AT&T reports.

ForHealth will also include pilot programs such as Smart Slippers, a research project that uses ZigBee's remote monitoring technology to wirelessly track how a person walks. Acceleration changes and pressure measurements can wirelessly alert caregivers if a patient falls, according to AT&T. "It captures the vitals through their feet," Crawford said. "And so it's very effective for those that are homebound and those in nursing homes."

In another pilot project announced on Oct. 13, AT&T will provide WellDoc's mobile DiabetesManager System to some of its employees to help them manage the condition. Through the ForHealth practice, AT&T will expand its collaboration with WellDoc to allow people to manage other diseases such as heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and tumor-related illnesses.

"We're partnering with companies to make sure we've got hosting and storage capabilities that meet the requirements of the health care providers," Crawford said.

ForHealth will also develop new telemedicine services involving in-home remote diagnostics in collaboration with doctors. AT&T and the University of California are collaborating on the California Telehealth Network, which will link 800 facilities in the state by the end of 2010.

In 2009, AT&T's revenue from its health care ventures was about $4 billion from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, physicians, insurers and suppliers, according to the company.